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Why Vancouver? Why You?

Thank you to all entrants. Please visit the semifinalist page to view the top ten essays as determined by our panel and the public voting. Click here to view the top ten

The Fall and Grace in Vancouver

By Lucy Goncalves

As a young adult I was a bit naïve and sometimes it led me into dangerous predicaments. One event especially comes to mind. I had a date with my boyfriend to attend a concert at the UBC Chan Centre. Beforehand, I went sailing at Jericho Beach with the Disabled Sailing Association. It was a beautiful, warm day, so after my sail, I decided to motor in my power chair from Jericho Beach to UBC, not being aware of the distance or terrain.

I proceeded along the seawall to Spanish Banks and arrived at the street that goes up the hill to UBC. It took a lot longer than I anticipated. I confirmed with a few bystanders that I was headed in the right direction. When I reached the road there were two options, I could go up the road or I could take a path separated by a cement barricade that ran parallel to the road. I was unsure how much traffic there would be so I decided the safest bet would be the gravel pathway. The path itself was quite narrow and rocky but it seemed okay to motor on.

As I proceeded further on the pathway it got narrower and it felt like my chair was on a tightrope. I was very cautiously maneuvering the joystick, moving it slowly and steadily to avoid any sharp turns and to keep my balance. Since I was very nervous and was so focused on the trail I failed to look up and enjoy the beauty of the surrounding forest however I did peek sideways and began to notice the downward slope on the side of the path. My nerves were racing, my stomach was turning and my heart was pounding rapidly from the adrenaline and fear. I couldn’t turn around and go back so I kept motoring forward, taking a deep breath to remain calm even though I was afraid of what lay ahead.

All of a sudden my back tire hit a rock and my chair flipped sideways and started sliding down the hill next to the path. The impact startled me as I fell on my right side. I felt a jolt of pain in my right arm and started getting dizzy from the blood rushing to my head. I closed my eyes for a few seconds until the dizziness subsided as I was trying to lessen any spastic or involuntary movements. I knew that any kind of jerking motion would make my chair slide down quicker. My head ended up over the cliff with my shoulder leaning against the edge. There was a waterfall trickling below. Somehow I avoided any further pain from the fall although I could feel the roughness from the sand and small pebbles as I was lying sideways. Tree branches surrounded me and I managed to grab one above my head. Although it didn’t stabilize my chair it gave me a sense of security.

At that moment I felt a sense of peace and calm like I was wrapped in a warm blanket. I wasn’t afraid. I remember the conversation I had with God. The kind of conversation you have when your life is about to end. I told Him how blessed I was and what a great life I’d had. I asked Him to take care of my family and friends and to forgive me for my stupidity.

My chair kept sliding and my head inched further over the edge. Then suddenly a man out of nowhere grabbed my chair to stop it from sliding. I was caught by surprise and was trying to figure out what was happening. I truly believe he was an angel because I didn’t see anybody on the path in any direction. He managed to keep my chair from sliding off the cliff while recruiting some other guys to help. I have no clue how he did it as the combined weight of me and my chair is over 300 pounds. The four guys managed to pull my chair and me back to an upright position. Then they lifted it up over the cement barricade onto the side of the road. It happened so fast that I didn’t know what was happening. It took me a minute to reconfigure my body and composure.

The guys asked me if I wanted to go home or take a cab the rest of the way. I said that I was going to continue motoring myself, as I didn’t have that much farther to go. Although they were concerned for me and shocked by my determination to carry on, they accepted my choice to keep going. With the acknowledgment of my utmost and deepest gratitude we parted ways. I got to the concert in one piece without any other scratches or pitfalls and enjoyed a lovely evening with my handsome young man.

It’s been over fifteen years since this adventure occurred and I have experienced other precarious situations but none comparable. To this day I marvel at the luxury of living in such an accessible and gracious city. It is a rare commodity to live in a city where you are awestruck by its beauty and feel safe to freely pursue its call of exploration. When you live life to the fullest being a bit spontaneous allows you to embrace the unexpected, especially the angels.

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