I hope my story encourages parents to always buckle up their kids regardless of the situation. You don’t want to feel the pain or grief I am going through. The sadness is overwhelming, even after a year.
Moving to D.C. and having to walk everywhere was a huge adjustment. My worries coming out centered around running out of data on my phone from using Google Maps, getting lost, or the blisters I might get on my feet from walking so much. What I should have been concerned with is my safety as a pedestrian.
As I write this with shaking hands, I know that shot that will haunt me for the rest of my life. But that’s OK. Because that shot also reminds me of my teammates, the importance of sticking together no matter what and the amazing feeling you get when you’re part of a team. It’s the same feeling I recognized in the faces of the U.S. women’s soccer team. And it’s a feeling that I hope every athlete – boy or girl – can experience.
If you're one of those parents who insists on yelling at the officials during your kid’s sporting event, let me start by saying, you’re right. OK? The kid probably did travel. That was a total strike. It was definitely icing. Obvious pass interference. But that doesn’t make up for all the ways we’re wrong.
Just because I’m fearless on the court doesn’t mean that I’m fearless in my everyday life. In fact, even something fun and seemingly harmless like a swimming pool can scare me. The truth is—I never learned to swim as a child. I may be able to score a career playoff high of 27 points for the Boston Celtics, but if you threw me into the ocean, I’d drown.
My favorite thing to do while walking by myself was listening to music. I love music. As a child, I was always singing and being scolded by my Aunt Joyce for humming at inappropriate times. But music is soothing to me; it makes me feel happy, playful and, at times, sad. Listening to music and walking seemed, to me, a harmless combination. Needless to say, I soon found out the danger of it.
If there is one thing I know about myself, it’s that I am not the most coordinated person. I know this because I ran cross-country in high school, and I still have the scars to prove it. Even the smallest branch or bump in the road used to be enough to bring me tumbling to the ground in spectacular fashion.
This tradition of tumbling continued when I left for college and became a tour guide. If you have ever been on a tour of a college campus, you can imagine that it is not the best job for the uncoordinated. Leading the tours required me to walk backwards in front of large groups of people. On my very first tour as a freshly-minted guide, I ran into no less than five tree branches and several innocent bystanders, not to mention nearly being struck by a passing car.