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A Day Which Changed My Life

Several people have asked me about my somewhat unusual position and how I came to be where I am. If any of you are wondering, I thought I'd briefly explain the events of a certain day in my life:

January 25th, 1981

I was 13 years old, and my best friend, Trey Shelton, had spent Saturday night at my house. After attending church, we went over to Trey's house to spend Sunday afternoon together. It was Superbowl Sunday, in fact. Trey and I decided to ride dirtbikes before the game. One of the motorcycles was a large one that belonged to one of our friends, and the other one was smaller and belonged to Trey. Since Trey rode quite often he took the larger bike, and I, who hardly ever rode, took Trey's, the smaller one.

Trey and his family lived on several acres in south Arlington. There were pastures, barns, wooded areas, and dirt roads connecting the different areas of the property. It was a great place for a couple of kids to have fun riding around. We rode for a little while; I don't really remember how long. What I do remember was that it was a great day to ride. The air was cool, but pleasant.

Unbeknownst to the two of us, a neighbor of his, a guy named Richard Tiedemann (whom neither Trey nor I had ever met or had any dealings with), had apparently snapped, and was in his house drinking heavily and becoming more and more angry with us for making so much noise with the motorbikes. 

He loaded his shotgun and came outside. One of the dirt roads on Trey's property ran adjacent to Tiedemann's property, so he stood behind a tree waiting for us to come up over a hill. Trey was in the lead, and when Trey came up over the rise, without any warning at all Tiedmann fired one blast into Trey. The spreading shotgun pellets hit Trey in the chest and head, killing him instantly.

I didn't hear any of this because the motorbikes were so loud. At least, I don't remember hearing or seeing anything. I then came up over the rise and even with Tiedemann. He fired once at me, hitting me with one of the shotgun pellets in the side of the head.

Tiedemann, apparently deciding his job was done, went back into his house, only a short distance away. Trey was lying in the road dead, and I was lying there not too far from my best friend, in convulsions and bleeding from a massive head wound, my life rapidly fading away with every beat of my heart.

Thankfully, there was a witness to all of this. A small neighbor child, playing in his front yard, saw all of this happen and immediately told his mother, who in turn called the police and paramedics. The police responded right away, and at the risk of their own lives they were able to interpose themselves between Tiedemann's house and where I was laying, enabling the paramedics to come in, stabilize me, and take me to the nearest hospital.

Meanwhile, while I was barely clinging to life, the Arlington Police Tactical Unit surrounded Tiedemann's house. They waited and tried to negotiate on that cold January afternoon, but to no avail. About 3 hours after he shot the two of us, Tiedemann came out onto his front porch and began shooting at the police. The police then shot and killed him.

Here I must say a little something about my feelings toward Tiedemann. Nearly everyone I tell this story to says "good, he's dead, he got what he deserved." Or something very similar. And at first I couldn't have agreed more. As time went by, though, I became more and more convinced that, although someone might be qualified to say who lives and who dies, it sure isn't me. I feel nothing but pity for the guy. To have so much hate and anger inside yourself must be horrible.

It was very doubtful whether I would survive, of course, but after numerous surgeries and three weeks in a coma I finally pulled through. Very much worse for the wear, I might add. I couldn't move a muscle, couldn't hold my head up, couldn't speak a word, could barely communicate at all. Very frustrating to be able to think but not be able to speak. Maddening, in fact.

However, over the coming months I learned to speak again. Mobility (other than cruising around in a wheelchair) eludes me, and I think forever will, but I have learned a great many things in the interim. Things about life, about love, about suffering and happiness, about pain and joy, and about what it means to be alive. Sure, it can be tough sometimes, but I've had an incredible opportunity for personal growth that few people ever get. Not many people can say that.

Much love and happiness,


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