By Donald Morgan
The line of people waiting to see Hillary stretched for hundreds of yards. FBI agents who wore yellow vests with the letters FBI across their chest did security checks. There were two metal detectors, so the line would flow smoothly. Pennsylvania State Police brought in the canine unit to sniff for bombs and make sure the college was safe. Although I was in a wheelchair, I was not saved from this scrutiny. I had to wait thirty minutes to go through the metal detector. Security wanted to get the crowd into the gym as quickly as possible. Then, my mother and I waited in the cafeteria for the FBI agents and the canine unit to do their search.
The police officer said, "Sir, we need you to get out of the chair." My mother said, “Officer, he cannot stand by himself." I said, "Mom, let's just do this and get it over with."
I positioned my chair close to a table to stand. Standing is very difficult for me. Security didn’t offer to help, and I didn’t ask for any help. I had to undo my seat belt, move my foot plates out of the way, and turn my chair off, so it wouldn't move when I stood. I placed my right and left hands on the table. Then I used all of the strength in my legs and arms to stand. The search lasted only five minutes; it felt like an eternity standing there. It felt as though my legs were going to give out. The canine unit sniffed my chair thoroughly.
When the search ended, I was allowed back in my “comfort zone”—my chair. I rolled into the gym to my front row seat. In the front row, I sat with other disabled students and the elderly.
Hillary Clinton wore a red blazer, black trousers and black flats. She had very little makeup, and her blond hair was parted on one side. I was in the front row clinging to every word she spoke.
Her speech lasted for forty-five minutes. She talked about the war in Iraq, health care, and education. At the conclusion of her speech, she shook hands and mingled with the crowd.
As Hillary got closer to where I was sitting, the people were going crazy. I had "Hillary for President" and "Pennsylvania for Hillary" signs pressed against my face. I was knocked up against the safety barrier. After I shook the hand of Hillary Clinton, I wanted to move so other people would get a chance to meet her. I had to run over people's feet with my wheelchair because they would not move when I asked them.
This event changed my life forever. Despite the challenges I face every day, most don't go to this extreme. And I would've done it all over again to feel the joy I felt that day.
Another challenge I face every day is when I go to the campus student center. I have to have a friend named Kaitlin go with me, so my chair doesn’t tip. In the winter time, when the weather is bad, the sidewalk usually gets slippery and wet. Sometimes I slip and slide, but eventually I get to the destination.
Transportation between home and school is the biggest challenge of them all. Sometimes the public transportation drivers don't pick me up on time, which makes me late for class. Then on February 16, 2009, I was involved in an accident on the bus. I wasn't securely strapped down and the bus driver took a turn too sharply, causing my chair to tip over. I suffered bruised ribs from this incident, and I had to miss one day of classes because of the injury. One time, the bus even forgot to pick me up from school. I had to wait two hours before they came.
Even though I face these challenges, I wouldn't change my mind about coming to Penn State Fayette. The administration staff and faculty are very nice, friendly people. If you need help with the door, the students will gladly help. If you have a problem, they are always there to help you. I try to be as independent as possible, but if I need help I won’t hesitate to ask; there's always a friendly face willing to lend a helping hand.
My advice to any disabled student is, if you want a good education, come to Penn State Fayette! The administration makes it a "level playing field," so you can learn at your pace, and the students and faculty treat me as an equal. That's why I will continue my education, and the reason I chose to come to Penn State Fayette!