The following is a copy of David’s speech which he gave at the Keene High School Class of 2014 Baccalaureate at the United Church of Christ this past Sunday the 15th.
Life and Overcoming
I want to thank the teachers, advisors, and administration for being here today. Especially the class of 2014 and everyone who supports them.
My name is David Hudgik, and I have been paralyzed from the chest down for the past two and a half years. I never thought that I would ever be saying that. Nor did I ever imagine being in the position that I’m in today, especially now that I am 19 years old. At age 16 I thought I was invincible. I quickly found out that I wasn’t.
Most of you probably knew me as a daring individual. I liked to take risks and wanted to push my limits. I found my love of skiing when I was 9 years old and from then on I put my heart, body, and soul totally into it and felt completely free. I took my skills to the trampoline where I was able to push my limits even further. I pulled off double back and front flips with ease and advanced into the world of double cork, 1080’s and 1440’s. Doing this meant the world to me.
Two years ago I experienced the unthinkable. On September 9th 2011, after becoming lost while performing a double front flip that I’d landed many times before, I found myself lying face up on my trampoline, unable to move or feel anything from below my chest. Staring up at the clear, starry night sky I started to wonder if I were dreaming, I hoped that I was. But I wasn’t. By the time the paramedics arrived I was in a panic. I lay there thinking, how could I let this happen? The paramedics went through their steps and questions and eventually got to the one question that I was dreading. They told me that they were going to squeeze my toes and they wanted me to tell them if and when I could feel it. I told them to go ahead. There was a slight pause and he told me that he had been squeezing them the whole time…my heart dropped and I no longer wanted to live.
That was the most terrifying moment of my life.
As you may guess, living with a spinal cord injury is far from easy. Every day I am faced with embarrassments and struggles of all kinds. When I first left Atlanta’s Shepherd Center for traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries after a four month stay, I felt lost. I felt completely out of place and devastated with what I had become, lost within a new life I did not know. I was eventually able to overcome these feelings because of two things. Hard work, and the love and support of my family and friends. Seeing the warm inviting faces of my friends helped me feel normal once again.
Not everything is a bad thing. Not even my accident. Don’t get me wrong, it sucks, and sometimes still does, but in the end I think it was the best thing to have happen to me. Without my injury I would not have met so many amazing people. My perspective of life was changed forever, for the better! I would not have as bright an outlook on my future as I do today.
As I progress through life and face individual struggles I will no longer feel lost when I am in a difficult situation. I will no longer feel lost because I now know that I can look to the person next to me and know that they can be supportive. KHS and my family have shown me this.
I do not think that my accident happened for a reason, nor do I think that someone “out there” has a plan for me because of it. I do know that, despite my limitations, I will still live a full, happy, normal-for-me life. Unexpected events can sometimes, in an instant, change our goals and plans forever. How we choose to overcome these events can greatly change our outlook on life.
I was pleased to hear that this year’s Salmagundi is dedicated to overcoming your negative experiences with the positive. No matter who you are, how people may portray you, you will face tough times in your life. Times that will require the positive moments in your life to shine. Between your positive attitude and the support around you, you can overcome the challenges that you will face.
As we end our four years here at Keene High School you may feel sad and scared, but though this is the end of our time here at Keene High, it is a new beginning and a new start, of a new life. I wish you all the best in your journey through life. May each of you become as happy in your new life, as I have become in mine.