Paralyzed H.S. Football Star Reflects on Accident That Changed His Life
By Jennifer Baez
Shots rang out, smoke detectors sound, and down goes Fort Hamilton’s promising offensive tackle and nose guard.
Christopher Williams was a junior in Fort Hamilton high school when he was shot and paralyzed from the knees down. Nine bullets entered the teen’s body in the lobby of his Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn apartment building but only seven were removed. The bullets managed to miss all of Christopher’s vital organs but claimed his right leg.
“Someone came in behind me and I turned and heard three shots and I fell,” Christopher said, “and then I heard the person come behind me and I felt their presence and they shot me some more”.
Attempting to protect his 13-year-old sister from harm on September 29, 2007 cost Christopher his football career and independence. Intimidated by the size of the football star, Christopher’s shooter decided to follow the teen home and attack him from behind.
The nearly seven-foot Division 1 hopeful now reflects on the times he once stood on the football field.
“Football for me was one of the best things I’ve done with my life,” Christopher said. “After I got shot I never watched football. However, as time went on I remembered how much I love football and I always will.”
Christopher battled to recover from his wounds and was faced with a new obstacle, living his life in a wheelchair. After being released from Kings County hospital he’s had endless hours of physical therapy and learned a lot of valuable lessons. He recalled times when his family instigated independence by encouraging him to get his own beverages and even forcing him to transfer from his wheelchair to cars independently.
He now laughs at these challenges and embraces his new regimens. Showers now consist of a showering bench and helping his mother lift her bed so he can access the bathroom. Outings are now scheduled a day in advance with Access-A-Ride; Christopher also has to be certain that all of his outings are wheelchair accessible.
This, however, is not seen as a disability or a disadvantage. Christopher is very vocal about doing things independently and is determined to live his life to the fullest.
He has recently received the Gold Key award from the Scholastic Writers Academy for penning his story entitled Heavens Hospital and was awarded a citation from the former Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, for his courageousness and adversity while facing this heinous crime head on. He also served as the keynote speaker for his 2010 graduating class at Fort Hamilton high school.
Former Head Football Coach Vincent Laino annually hosts Chris Williams Day at Rockaway Beach in Queens, N.Y. in honor of Christophers’ spirit and sacrifice every July. This year will mark Christophers’ seventh anniversary.
Christopher now serves as an inspirational speaker and is a productive member of his church. He has also joined the first international fraternal organization Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., which was founded on the campus of a historically black college, Howard University.
He is currently a junior at CSI and is pursuing a degree in Psychology. He continues to inspire the youth and is still in contact with his high school teammates. He is also looking forward to his seventh anniversary and has learned to enjoy football again.
Christopher is hopeful that he will walk again in the future as he is starting to regain feeling in his left leg. He chooses not to reflect on his past and has learned to adapt to life on his new lifestyle.
“It’s annoying sometimes and it’s harder than before,” Christopher said. “But it gets easier over time”.