Peter Anagnostos from Cleveland State University was nice enough to invite CBC to a City Club of Cleveland function on March 11. That’s always a good thing. The City Club, which turns 100 next year, is one of many reasons why we all should brag.
Always captivating, this latest Friday Forum didn’t disappoint despite a morning snowstorm that prevented several busloads of students from attending.
Aimee Mullins showed up, though. In fact, the day’s speaker did so in toe-less heels. Apparently, a foot of snow and freezing temperatures doesn’t bother everyone, even someone with two prosthetic legs. Or should I say, especially someone with two prosthetic legs?
I get the feeling that Mullins doesn’t complain about much, especially the weather, and not just because there’s infinitely less sensation in her lower legs than her presentations. The average Northeast Ohioan — whiny when the thermometer gets too high or too low, among many other things — should take notes.
Mullins was born without fibulae in her legs. At age 1 she had both legs amputated below the knee. The alternative would have been life in a wheelchair. The result has been 35 years of remarkable accomplishment, including a stint with the U.S. Department of Defense at age 17, a star track-and-field career at Georgetown University, and most recently acting and modeling stints.
The one thing that does bother Mullins — immensely — are the tags attached to physically impaired individuals. She came to Cleveland to redefine “disabled” while also promoting Cleveland State’s SPIRE Academy. “The only true disability,” Mullins told the audience, “is a crushed spirit.”
Strong words, for sure. Even more powerful, to me, was the story that Mullins related about a 5-year-old girl who had come to her for advice. Born with brittle bone disease, the girl was coping with one leg that was several inches shorter than the other. Eventually, her prosthetist suggested amputation.
Now, that would have scared the hell out of me back in the day. It still would. But this little girl, behind encouragement from Mullins, went ahead and had her leg amputated. And what had been her biggest worry going in? Finding fashionable shoes to wear with a prosthetic leg. “That’s what she wanted to talk to me about — shoes,” Mullins said. “Then she went home and asked her parents when could she get a new leg.”
The girl got that new leg and just six months later crossed paths with Mullins. Wearing red, sequined Mary Janes, she pulled up her dress to reveal her new look —a pink leg tattooed with characters from “High School Musical 3.”
“She asked me if I could get her Zac Efron’s autograph,” Mullins said.
Amazing. While we moan, the spirits of these two soar. And even if there is some merit to our misery, we’ve still got one less “good” leg to stand on than the two of them combined.