When Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) addressed his people Friday at Dallas’s City Hall, he spoke of unity, and he spoke of healing.
It had been less than 24 hours since a black gunman sprayed bullets upon a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Dallas, pulling the trigger over and over as he targeted police officers, specifically white ones. His bullets hit 12 of them. Five died.
More than 1,300 miles away in Jackson Hole, Wyo., Abbott vacationed with his family. But as the violence unfolded, and the death count climbed, the governor cut short his trip.
He flew back Friday, in time for a news conference at city hall, where, flanked by lawmakers in suits before a room crowded with reporters, he spoke of the importance of strength, of the “true Texas trademark.”
“That is the word resilience,” Abbott said. “Texans have faced challenge after challenge after challenge for well over a century, and we have always shown our trademark resilience.”
That same day, the governor went on to complete a whirlwind tour of interviews with a handful of media outlets.
Nobody knew that through all that, he’d been channeling that Texas trademark himself.
His legs — from the knees down and across his feet — were wrapped in medical dressings, reported the Associated Press. His feet, usually wearing dress shoes or boots, were covered instead with brand new orthopedic shoes.
While vacationing in Jackson Hole, the governor had suffered severe second and third-degree burns, reported the AP, from an accident involving scalding water. As he was being discharged from St. John’s Medical Center, where doctors had urged him not to travel, he received news of the Dallas shooting.
“His first words to us were, ‘I’ve got to come back,'” the governor’s spokesman, Matt Hirsch, told the AP.
Abbott’s staff scrapped a press release detailing information about the burns — including that he may not be healthy enough to attend next week’s GOP convention in Cleveland — and turned their attention to the shooting.
It wasn’t until Sunday evening when the Austin American-Statesman first broke the news of the governor’s burns.
“We didn’t want to distract from what was happening in Dallas,” Hirsch told the newspaper. “We still don’t want to.”
There was risk of infection, doctors cautioned, something Abbott’s chief of staff, Daniel Hodge, discussed with the governor over the phone, even as doctors cut and removed his scalded skin, the American-Statesman reported.
“The governor said he wanted to be in Dallas Thursday and to make it happen,” Hodge, who has worked for Abbott for 15 years, told the newspaper.
The next day, the governor was back in Texas.
Hirsch told the AP surgery won’t be required immediately but that the governor will see specialists Monday afternoon at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. His legs are wrapped daily, the AP reported, and will be that way for two to three weeks.
Abbott was paralyzed in 1984 when a tree fell on him while he was jogging. He uses a wheelchair, but still has functioning nerve receptors in his legs and feet, according to the AP. The burns are just as painful for him as they would be for anyone.
Officials in Abbott’s administration said the governor’s decision about attending the GOP convention in Cleveland is “day-to-day.” He is the chairman of Texas’s delegation to the RNC, which begins July 18, and is a guest of honor at a series of receptions co-sponsored by the Republican Governors Association and Cornerstone Government Affairs. He has not been asked to speak at the convention, according to the American-Statesman.
Of his boss, chief of staff Hodge told the newspaper: “He showed incredible grit.”
More from Morning Mix: