What does this sad news mean?

14 Feb

In case you have not heard, paralympian and Olympian Oscar Pistorius has been arrested and charged with murder in the shooting death of his girlfriend.  Initial reports state Pistorius thought she was an intruder and shot her in error. The police, however,  have been reported as saying that is not true. He will not appear in court until tomorrow.

Surely this is tragic not only for Pistorius, his late girlfriend, their families and friends, fellow paralympians and runners, but for us, the families of special needs children as well. Although Pistorius’ disability was solely physical and not at all intellectual or neurological, his victories became victories for all of us. It showed us the human spirit in all its greatness. It showed us that limitations are only limits on one’s imagination. He fought long and hard for the right to be able to compete with and against able-bodied athletes, a fight many of us face for our children with autism.

The truth is that this tragedy would not be reported with such fervor if Pistorius was able-bodied or if he were any other paralympian. And some wonder, will all the good he did for the disabilities community be not only forgotten but potentially undone?

Because Pistorius’ disability is solely physical, I doubt many of the in-roads he made will be undone anytime soon. Although, it would be short-sighted of me to not to acknowledge that some extremely ignorant people may attempt to link this violence to incidences like the tragedy in Newtown where some of the less enlightened stated that it was Adam Lanza’s autism that provoked his violence. Pistorius’ good might be forgotten, but I am doubtful it could be undone.

The most important thing to remember when tragedies like this occur; when heroes fall and fall hard; is that the message must be stronger than the messenger. We are all human and all susceptible to failure and falls from grace. Oscar Pistorius proved that paralympians could compete with their able-bodied counterparts. He proved that accommodations do not equate to an unfair advantage or cheating. Those are his messages, and may they live long no matter what the outcome of this horrific incident.

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