For those of you who don’t know Taylor’s story, I suggest you get caught up by reading about my first time visiting Taylor. It starts at the beginning of his journey and will get you caught up.
I’ve always believed a professional photographer’s job is more about sharing a story than it is about capturing images. Since the day Taylor got hurt, I knew I had to help tell his story through images to the best of my ability and as closely as Taylor and Danielle would allow. Their attitude and willingness to share what they’re going through is simply incredible and beyond humbling. Anyone that follows Taylor’s story is aware of what we’re witnessing. Not only is Taylor’s story one of tragedy, perseverance, strength, love, family, friendship and community, but he also happens to be friends with a group of people who together cover the entire spectrum of media. That all means Taylor has a story worth hearing and the resources to change people’s lives. Taylor and Danielle know how powerful their story is, and they know how important it is to continue to share their progress.
It was only a matter of time before someone, somewhere caught wind of Taylor and Danielle’s inspiring tale. So when I woke up Monday, September 17th to a flood of emails and phone calls, I knew it had happened. Someone did what I should have done a long time ago: they shared Taylor and Danielle’s love story in pictures only. That single post sparked a fire with the media, and for that entire week, Ben and I were drowning in requests. My favorite thing about that week is while Ben and I were struggling to keep in contact with every major news source, including offers from Ellen, the TODAY show, ABC and others, Taylor and Danielle remained focused. They knew about all of the calls and emails, but when we were frantically trying to contact them Tuesday, they didn’t respond until 2:00 p.m. I was put back in my place when Taylor chuckled and said, “I’ve got rehab to work on, the phone calls can wait.” They weren’t even phased by all of the commotion; they remained steadfast and focused.
Jump to that following weekend. We had arranged plans for Taylor and Danielle to be guests on the TODAY show in New York City. We got to enjoy a wonderful weekend there. While we were there we got to attend a Yankee’s game, see Time Square and visit the 9/11 memorial. I want to thank NBC for treating us so nicely and again thanks to Taylor and Danielle for allowing me to come and bring my big dumb camera and stick it in your faces all weekend!
Taylor’s older sister Molly got to bring her boyfriend, Ryan out to New York. Ryan’s aunt, uncle and cousin live in Manhattan and ate with us our first night in town. Seeing how Taylor interacts with children is adorable. The low raspy tone in his voice doesn’t change, but his eyes grow kinder as he patiently teaches kids how his new parts work. He understands their curiosity and wants to show them how cool the technology is. He was joking with Sophia about how his arm is voice activated, which I personally found very amusing!
On Monday, September 24th, Taylor and Danielle made their first appearance on national television when they stepped in front of the cameras at the TODAY show.
As they sat Taylor and Danielle down for their interview, Taylor looked out the window and saw three of his EOD friends outside waving. It was so awesome to see them there to support Taylor. It just goes to show how tightly knit Taylor and his brothers are.
On October 13th, Taylor and Danielle returned home for the second time. They got to enjoy just over a week back home. The main reason for their return on October 19th was “The Unstoppable Event,” a benefit put on by Taylor’s family. The event was held at the Park Place Event Centre in Cedar Falls, Iowa, who generously donated use of their beautiful space for an evening of dinner, dancing, and auctions.
Tuesday, October 16th was Taylor’s 24th birthday. In typical Morris fashion, we had a bonfire. Bonfires at the Morris’ house aren’t very typical. In fact, it’s only considered a success if the fire department gets at least one phone call, and that night was no exception. Just one problem though, we forgot to forewarn the fire department of our recreational fire, so on behalf of everyone in attendance, sorry Cedar Falls Fire Department! Although your appearance was unnecessary, turning on the lights as you left made for a fun show!
Friday, October 19th, people began to pour into the event. They didn’t stop. As a matter of fact the parking lot got full and people had to park at the hotel next door, and then that got full and people had to park down the street! Being a wedding photographer in Cedar Falls, I’ve had the pleasure of shooting several weddings at the Park Place Event Centre. I have never seen anywhere near this many people in that building at once. It was so amazing. I asked Taylor near the end of the event if he was overwhelmed, and to my surprise, he said, “No, this is great!” I assumed having that many people try and meet and greet would be like a graduation open house from hell. Again, Taylor’s genuine character comes into play as he welcomed each person whole-heartedly, sincerely grateful for their attendance.
Taylor’s aunt, Cindy Johnson, headed the event. Without her, the event would not have been so successful!
Denise Olson held a golf fundraiser in August called “Tee Up for Taylor.” They raised $30,000 and presented Taylor and Danielle with a check privately at the event.
Danielle’s parents, Paula and Shawn dancing.
By all numbers the event was a HUGE success. There were over 700 people in attendance and they raised over $100,000 through silent auctions, live auctions, donations and ticket sales. Everyone had such a good time. The atmosphere was so positive and so exciting. I was so proud to have some of my photographs auctioned off. Thanks to Mark and Steve at American Color in Cedar Falls and Curtis Benton with Pixel2Canvas who donated the prints.
One moment that stood out to me during the event was when Taylor took the stage to make a speech. It wasn’t actually anything he said (although he’s a natural with the mic and I hope we all hear more from him), it was a little something that happened during his speech. Taylor grabbed the mic and began to speak. Midway through the speech, his prosthetic arm decided to open his hand making Taylor drop the mic. The mic only fell about six inches before Danielle had already caught it mid-air. Neither of them flinched; they just continued! To me that moment represents so much about their relationship. Danielle didn’t just take the mic and hold it for Taylor, she let him hold it and was there to let him do things on his own. When things didn’t go as planned, she was there to help Taylor. This is the closest thing to two-become-one that I’ve ever witnessed. When Taylor’s arm fails, she’s his arm. When his legs can’t propel him up the stairs, she’s his legs.
While we were hanging out one day last week, Taylor, Danielle and Ben spoke on the phone with a lawyer about their plans and goals. Over hearing this conversation was so humbling. Here Taylor and Danielle were already trying to figure out how they could use the money donated to them to start a foundation with the hopes of providing children with prosthetics. Now that’s character. Taylor continued to speak about how he wants to see used prosthetics being re-purposed someday and is already scheming ways to help improve the current outdated system. Like I’ve said before, they’re incredible and truly an inspiration.
I’ve been asked on several occasions how I know Taylor or what our friendship consists of. As I had mentioned in my first post about Taylor, I met him in a corn field. We bonded because of our extreme passions for cars, motorcycles, mechanics and recklessness. Nine years later, not much has changed. As a matter of fact, for me, things have come full circle. If you had asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up when I was three, I would’ve said a tractor, and would introduce myself as Tractor Dodd. Once I grasped the concept that being a tractor may be a difficult profession, I turned to a more obvious career choice, scorpion training. Eventually, I dreamt of a more realistic career and from the age of seven until I graduated high school if you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would answer, “A prosthetic engineer.”
I don’t believe what happened to Taylor has any grand scheme or purpose behind it. I think it’s a tragic, horrific event we all wish would’ve never happened. I still find myself wishing things were different, but one thing I’m glad changed is our friendship. I can honestly say our bond is so much stronger than it was before, mostly because of how Taylor inspires me. I dream about Taylor several nights a week, think of prosthetic designs, and I’ve found a new spark for creativity. I think the tragedy of almost losing a good friend of mine made me reevaluate a lot of things and because of that, I’ve tried to not let any of my friendships grow idle. I’ve learned to live more fully and not take a single minute for granted.
On June 17th, while visiting Taylor for the first time, I posted on facebook “I don’t think I’ve been more inspired in my life. Get ready world.” I don’t think I knew how true that statement was when I wrote it.
If any good has come from this, it’s that Taylor is inspiring thousands and thousands of people. If you’ve been inspired for him, speak up, share his story with everyone you know. You might not even know what it can do for them.
To keep up to date with Taylor’s progress, make a donation, or buy a Taylor Morris T-Shirt; please visit www.taylormorris.org