Personal Column: Malone demonstrates courage and hope in return to Panther stadium

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Panther varsity coach Matt Allen stops to encourage Storm Malone prior to taking his place on the field in the coaching box. Malone would have been a starter on the freshman team this year had his goals not been abruptly ended in a domestic attack in August that took his sister Tasmia Allen and mother Toya Smith’s lives and left him near death. (Mireya Ibarra photo)

“Storm Malone is in the house,” the announcer’s voice bellows from above. A boy in a wheelchair enters the field. Instantly, life is pumped into the crowd. Fans on both sides stand and cheer at the top of their lungs. My eyes are glued on the survivor, and the sight takes me on a roller coaster ride of emotions.

After the initial shock, the first emotion to surface is empathy. The past few months of his life have been nothing short of heartbreaking. He was the victim of a domestic shooting in August during which he was shot in the lower part of his neck with the bullet ricocheting into his head leaving his brain damaged putting him in a coma. When he woke up, his family had to break the news to him: his mother and sister did not survived the violence. The amount of courage it must have taken to deal with those words is beyond me.

Empathy is followed by inspiration. The same boy who was given 72 hours to live sits in front of me, living and breathing. He overcame all odds and a devastating tragedy, and now he’s bravely coping with his loss. He sits in front of the crowd, and also the world, with a smile on his face and faith in his heart. His strength and positive outlook  are contagious. He is a testament of strength, perseverance and the grace of God.

He is wheeled to center field where he will perform the Panther football captain’s coin-toss. The other team members greet him with the utmost respect. Suddenly, an amazing thing happens – he grabs a hold of those around him, anchoring to them to remain stable and clumsily stands up. His family quickly rushes to provide support. Silence and amazement fall over the crowd as we all hold our breath and hope he is able to stay on his feet.

The referee explains the rules of the coin-toss and places the coin on Storm’s fingers. All eyes are on him as he makes the call of heads and propels the coin up. The smile on his face says it all. This snapshot is about more than just standing up to flip a coin. These actions are the beginning of his recovery. Instantly a new feeling flows through me: hope. I am assured that he will be okay. And I know that if he can stand after being pushed down, there is a chance for all of us.

All of us Panthers love you, Storm Malone. You’re our symbol of hope.