When I was seven or eight years old, my family went to New Jersey as we did bi-annually to visit my Aunt Cookie, Uncle Arthur, and cousins, Zach and Ben. We were not blood related, but Cookie and Pam (my mother) were best friends. I was raised with Cookie’s family being a part of my family. When we visited Jersey, we’d often stop in New York City. I was 6 months old the first time we went, and though I do not remember that trip, I do remember our later trips.

Pam could be very weird about my disability, which at the time, made it hard for me to climb steps. I limped and was slow walking long distances. Sometimes she’d treat me like I could do everything everyone else could, to the point of ignoring my limitations and blaming me for them. Other times, she’d say I was incapable of doing anything. This trip, she attempted to do the latter.

Domnick on Liberty Island with his brother and cousins at age 7 or 8

I had never been to the Statue of Liberty, and as the baby of the group with two older male cousins and an older brother, my interests were often overruled. This trip, though, was bound to be magical. We were going to see Lady Liberty, herself. Our trip on the ferry went without incident, and by the time we got to the Statue of Liberty, I knew I wanted to go to the top. Pam and my Dad disliked heights, so they didn’t want to go. When we arrived, we found out the elevator up to the top was broken, so Pam made the executive decision to tell me I couldn’t go because I had no way to get to the top.

Being tiny and kid like, my Uncle Arthur offered to carry me up, but Pam declined. I insisted I could go myself. She said that was fine, because she didn’t believe I could do it. She said, as soon as I gave up or asked for help, my uncle was to bring me back down. My Uncle would go with me, and Aunt Cookie took the older boys who ran ahead and disappeared. When we were alone, my uncle told me he’d carry me and we just wouldn’t tell them, but I’m stubborn, so I politely told him no.

There, as I held onto the railings, I lifted one foot slowly after another, pausing to rest after every step. When we got to Lady Liberty’s body, once again, my uncle offered to carry me, but I told him no. As people climbed beside me, and past me, I slowly started crawling up the steps. I didn’t care that it was probably degrading or that people probably though I was weird. I crawled up every step as we wound our way up to her crown. There were little slots at the side of her body where I’d sit and rest every few steps.

At the top, exhaustion set in, and I lay on the ground, panting heavily, so tired my uncle lifted me up to see out. As he held me up, I looked out in awe. This was my freedom. This was my liberty. This was my justice, and I earned it all…myself.

Dizzily, I tried to get down from his arms, but he cradled me fireman style, and said he was carrying me down. I asked him what about what Pam said? To which he replied she had said nobody could carry me up, but not down. He lifted me over onto his back and gave me a piggy back ride, down all of the steps.

When my parents saw me, Pam started to protest, and he quickly quieted her by telling her I climbed every step myself, proving her wrong. He proceeded to list how many steps I climbed up myself – more than a few thousand, and there was nothing else she could say.

I proved that day that anyone, regardless of ability can find their own way and accomplish their goals, even if it is unconventional, like crawling up steps. Those of us with disabilities are resourceful, so we’ll find a way to adapt to any situation, especially if it makes our dreams come true.

This is the principle I live by every day. It is not inspiration. It is reality.

[tags]disability, determination, reality, statue of liberty, liberty, justice, freedom, lady liberty[/tags]

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