A Spirit the Waves Couldn't Break
Monday, July 4, 2005
Joshua Basile waits backstage at the Potomac school where he graduated two Junes ago, listening for the cue that will launch him as a young man with a cause.
If he's remembering how different things once were, before the accident forced so much in his life into past tense, he doesn't say.
If he's wondering how his debut audience will react, well, Josh already knows what 700 students will focus on first.
Not shiny, sexy chrome. They're the thick, heavy tread of an all-terrain wheelchair.
The old Josh was a hot-shot tennis player and a good-times party guy. "He played with big, broad strokes," a school official says as introduction. Yet last summer, Josh was doing little more than standing, watching in waist-high water for the next big wave at Bethany Beach. An instant later, he was floating helplessly in the ocean. Paralyzed almost completely and certain he would die.
The new Josh gingerly maneuvers his right hand onto his drive control, shifts his chair into gear and crosses the 25 feet to stage center. The school assembly is pin-drop quiet as he starts to talk. He recounts the journey that has gotten him to this point, glosses over the distance he still hopes to cover. He shares a memory:
My eyes looking at the beach
Like any other day
Unbreakable, I think
Until that single wave
Temporarily imprisoned me.