The one certain thing about life is that it is full of uncertainty. From one moment to the next, we can slam into a wall and be forced to start over. This lesson is found in the story of Travis Roy in his book “11 Seconds: A Story of Tragedy, Courage and Triumph.”
The End of a Dream and the Beginning of a Nightmare
Travis was an all-American boy from Maine living the dream of many New Englanders. He was a much-touted hockey player with big goals. After graduating from high school, he wanted to play for a Division I college team and then the National Hockey League.
Everything seemed to be going as planned. He was given a full sports scholarship at Boston University (BU). Travis was on the starting lineup for the first game of the season. The first play had him chasing an opposing player to retrieve a hockey puck slapped into the far corner. Little did he realize his world was about to turn upside down.
Ten seconds into the game, Travis attempted a “body check” on the defensive player but bounced off and slammed headfirst into the wall. At the eleventh second, he fell lifeless to the ground. His father came out on the ice because he knew it was serious. His son explained he could not feel anything, and his neck hurt. The doctors placed him on a stretcher, and he was taken to a nearby hospital.
The prognosis was grim. The young man would be a quadriplegic for the rest of his short life. Travis would later summarize what happened in that 11th second of his promising career. Playing for BU was a dream come true. With the accident, the dream ended, and the nightmare began.
Iraq Veteran Brings Holy Water
The rest of the book, which spans the next year and a half after the accident, takes the reader into every little detail about what it is like to lose the ability to care for oneself. His coach, Jack Parker, learned this firsthand when he visited Travis in the hospital. He asked his formerly strapping young player if he could do anything for him. “Yes, coach,” Travis said, “could you scratch my nose?”
The sad thing about this young man’s story is that his family, as Travis recounts, “was not particularly religious.”
This became clear when a veteran, arriving home from the Gulf War, visited Travis. He brought a bottle of holy water and explained to the Roy family that it might not cure their son, but it would help him spiritually to deal with the future.
The Roys were desperate and willing to try anything. Travis explained, “They weren’t quite sure what to do with it.” That evening Mr. Roy opened the bottle and sprinkled it over his son’s entire body. “It was almost mystical,” Travis said. “The holy water gave the moment a spiritual air.”
Travis also tells of the impact of the poem “Footprints in the Sand” that a friend sent his mother after the accident. This poem describes the normal life of a man walking on a beach under the protection of an angel. Looking back, he sees two sets of footprints. However, there are times in a man’s life when things get most difficult, and it seems the angel abandons him, and he sees only one set of footprints. Those are the times, the story concludes, when the angel carries him.
The rest of the book is devoted to Travis’ account of the grueling struggle of being a quadriplegic and the stories of the people, “angels,” who appear out of nowhere to lend a helping hand. Without such interventions, he admits, neither he nor his family could have endured the sufferings.
At the very end of the book, Travis tells how he read the bible but “did not believe all the stories.” Thankfully Travis came to believe in the power of prayer.
“I used to think of prayers being black and white,” he said. “Heal this. Cure that. I think maybe those prayers were answered more than I realized. I feel I’m getting to the point where I’m ready to surrender to God’s will.”
Aside from a couple of instances of bad language, this book is worth reading because of what we can learn from Travis’s tragedy. He had his life all planned out, and in a moment, it all changed. This drama can happen to anyone.
Every Man Can Have His Own “11th Second Moment”
Everyone has suffered an “11th Second moment.” They are life-altering events that we do not see coming.
It could be a car accident where the victim wakes up in the hospital, a mother who suddenly loses a child or a husband who gets laid off from work. These are just a few examples of the surprises that can come our way as individuals.
This can also happen with societies. They can suffer from wars, natural disasters and social strife. Such cases might even take on catastrophic proportions, as seen in those in the flood who ignored Noah. Metaphorically speaking, they crashed headfirst into the wall, as did the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. So it is with our world.
Many people see uncertainty and danger on the horizon. We have not heeded the warnings of Our Lady of Fatima and the chastisement that would come if we do not convert. Her message has been largely ignored, or worse yet, watered down.
We may not have reached the “11th second moment,” but many sense our world is about to crash into the wall. The story of Travis Roy is important because it provides hope amid disaster. How this 20-year-old young man was able to bounce back is truly inspiring. However, what was sorely lacking in his story was someone to explain the importance of prayer to him. Thousands prayed for Travis, yet he tells only a few instances where he followed their example.
He started the Travis Roy Foundation to help others like him and felt confident he would one day be cured through some new medical breakthrough. Unfortunately, that day never came. He died when he was 45 years old.
Our crumbling modern world is approaching its “11th Second Moment.” Like Travis, it will suddenly come to a screeching halt. With prayer and the amendment of life that Our Lady of Fatima requested, it will be healed after the catastrophe. Maybe then we will “surrender to God’s will,” heed Our Lady of Fatima’s requests and taste the triumph of Her Immaculate Heart.
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