Danny Harris is a DC-based photographer, DJ, and collector of stories. He launched People’s District, a blog that tells a people’s history of DC by sharing the stories and images of its residents. You can follow People’s District on Twitter @PeoplesDistrict, and can read his previous columns here.
“In 1999, I had just finished a job up on East-West Highway and New Hampshire Avenue when the hit and run happened. I work with my hands and was putting my tools away in the back of my truck. I can’t explain it, but I had this feeling that a car was heading towards me. I guess it was just instinct, but I jumped up in the air. When I came down, I had no legs. A car smashed right into me and took off my legs below the knees. Had I not jumped, the car would have hit me in the mid-section, and I would have died.
“They rushed me to the hospital and tried to save my legs. You know, they were going to make me a midget and throw away the bad parts of my legs and just reattach my feet to my knees. That didn’t work out, so they gave me prosthetics instead. Funny thing about that is I tricked the doctors into giving them to me before I was supposed to get them. I was stuck up in that hospital for so long, and couldn’t stand it no more. I needed to get out and had plans to get married on Hains Point, so I started to do my own kinds of rehabilitation. Most of this stuff is just mental. Once I convinced my brain that my legs were gone, I stopped having the phantom pains and started to learn how to walk on my own. You can be sure, I made it to my wedding. Now that was a beautiful day.
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“A year-and-a-half later, I was already doing the AIDS ride and biked 330 miles from North Carolina to Washington, D.C. I did the ride again a year later and am now competing in the Extremity Games down in Florida. Last year, I competed in kayaking, mountain biking, and rock climbing. I may not be as fast as I used to be, but I can still do everything that I used to do with my prosthetics.
“I have really tried hard not to let my accident and the 66 operations change my life. Before the accident, I used to be really into vanity. I took a lot of pride in my look. It was hard at first to not have legs and have people look at me, but now it doesn’t bother me. This accident taught me that we are more than what we see. I am more than the sum of my parts. To me, that is the lesson from this whole accident and what I want to tell people.
“And, one more thing, just because you lose your legs, doesn’t mean you lose your vanity. I have a collection of eight sets of legs at home to wear on different occasions. So, you can be sure that I am always looking good.”