Saturday, May 4, 2013

Sydney

I have been debating putting this post together for at least a week. It's something I wanted to discuss, but I also don't want to feel like I'm exploiting this person for my own benefit. That's why her full name isn't in the title, and why I asked her if I could quote her. I'm also going to try very hard not to assume stuff based solely on my own thinking process. If I fail, I apologize in advance.

Having said that, I want to talk about someone I've mentioned here and here. I want to talk about Sydney.

If you haven't/won't read those previous entries, Sydney was injured in the Boston Marathon bombings. Well, truthfully, that doesn't do it justice - were it not for the quick actions of total strangers, Sydney probably wouldn't be with us today. Their efforts to save her life were captured in photos, and at least one of these spawned a false story that had no relationship to the facts. In looking into this and other spurious tales that sprang up after the bombing, I wound up (like you do) at Snopes.

Snopes was where I ran across Sydney's real name. I was curious to find out how she was doing, and Snopes had no hyperlinks to stories about her. Therefore, I went to Google and entered her name. I found stories that filled in the details a bit further. I also found something I hadn't expected. Right there near the top of the first page of results was Sydney's Twitter account.

Oh, it was the same Sydney. I was skeptical, but clicking over revealed there could be little doubt it was the same young woman I'd just seen hurt so severely. The question was: What would I do about it? I thought it over and decided to send her a message of support. I figured it would be a little while before she saw it, but even the smallest gesture can mean a lot.

That was all I intended to do. Then, I realized I was reading her feed. Twitter can't tell you everything about a person, but it can tell you enough that they become real to you. As I read, Sydney came alive for me. So did her family and friends, including her mother who had lost her legs in the blast. The attack had already felt horrible to me, but now it was becoming personal. Seeing the unfolding life that someone had tried to end really connected with me, and it gave a human face to all that had happened.

As you might recall, while this was happening, I was also dealing with the personal identification of the tragedy in West, TX. Then I learned the heartbreaking news that someone close to an old friend had died unexpectedly. In the midst of all this, I decided that Sydney seemed like the kind of person I would enjoy knowing in real life, so I would follow her on Twitter. Again, I didn't expect this to make much difference for some time.

But surprisingly, Sydney was well enough to resurface on Twitter less than a week after the incident. Even more surprisingly, she was amazingly upbeat and positive. As I and other strangers joined those who knew and loved her in cheering her on, Sydney displayed a determination and never say die attitude that was...well, I'll just go ahead and say it. It was inspirational. I have never been so happy to see someone show up on Twitter, and she was one of the few things that made me smile during what was a very emotionally-loaded time.

I contributed to the family's fundraising page (see below), but I guess what I most tried to contribute was the sense that Sydney, her mom, and the rest of her family weren't alone. I was only a small voice in that, but put enough voices together and hopefully, it makes a difference. I like to think we buoyed her spirits when she would get down, but only the lady herself can say for certain. All I know is that I've tried to bring her happiness when I've tweeted to her.

Sydney and her mom Celeste have been on both NBC (THE TODAY SHOW and ROCK CENTER) and NPR telling their story. The segment on last night's ROCK CENTER had one moment which really caught my attention. Natalie Morales asked Sydney if she was still in pain, and Sydney admitted that she was. When I heard this, something dawned on me. I obviously knew you can't be injured the way Sydney was and be pain-free that quickly. No, what stunned me was this - it was the first time I could remember Sydney acknowledging in public that she was still in pain.

What makes this so remarkable for me is that, remember, I am following Sydney on Twitter. Twitter is the place where people often go to vent. Yet Sydney never complained of pain, or if she did, it wasn't enough to notice. Instead, she was speaking of walking, of going from a walker to crutches, of not being kept down. She wrote about her mother, she thanked the people sending her messages of support, she kept on keeping on.

I don't know Sydney. In all likelihood, I'll never "meet" her away from the Internet. But my respect and admiration for this young woman is enormous. This is the second time in her life that she has been dealt a potentially devastating blow - first a fractured skull from being hit by a car, then being grievously wounded in a bombing. Yet she perseveres, and frankly, it is beautiful.

In response to a message where I told her she was basically taking this huge challenge and kicking it in the ass, Sydney replied:

Lol, I try. I'm human and I have my moments, but I pick myself back up again. I did it years ago and I'll do it again.

It's not easy. We don't get to see those "moments," and frankly, they are none of our business. But in the face of an enormous mountain, Sydney says she'll climb it. Standing at the end of a long road, she says she walk it. And you know what? I don't have a doubt in my mind she will.

She's not superhuman; she's just as human and fallible as anyone. But she demonstrates that you don't necessarily need to be superhuman to do something special. Sometimes, what you need is the will.

Sydney went home yesterday. Her recovery is far from over, but she has just taken another big step. Of course, she apparently has a fever(!) right now, so best wishes to her in getting over that.

In a message to someone else, she said, "...I don't care how big of a difference I make, as long as I make one." Well Sydney, you made a big difference for me. You gave me a face to the Boston Marathon bombing victims. I can never help everyone, no matter how much I wish I could. But I found you and wanted to help you, in whatever small way I could. Your attitude as you fought your way back reminded me of something I have been clinging to since that horrible day and all the subsequent horrible events - there are more good people than bad in this world, and the human spirit is indomitable.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you Sydney - for being yourself.

Sydney's mom Celeste is still in rehab, doing the work she needs to be ready for artificial legs. She strikes me as an extraordinary woman, perhaps even moreso than she realized herself. It's not hard to see Sydney's spirit came from her parents. But again, it's a tough situation. I won't even pretend to understand the difficulty of it. That doesn't change the fact that I am certain that she will emerge triumphant, and that once again, the bombers will have failed to break her.

What can you do for these two courageous and beautiful ladies? Well, there's still the Celeste & Sydney Recovery Fund, which is taking donations for them. If that doesn't work for you, there is also a bank address on the page you can go through directly. You could also "Like" this Facebook Support Page for them. But most of all, keep them in your thoughts and (if you believe) prayers. Every little bit of support helps.

I'm not sure I have a snappy wrap-up here. I do want to say directly to Sydney that I hope the recovery for you and your mom continues. I was hit by a major hurricane once, and both of you have endured more than I can imagine. You survived. I believe the years ahead hold bigger and better things for both of you.

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