Some things are worth holding onto…

blog, Taylor Morris
This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Taylor Morris

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. 

Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC

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 Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC

Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC

Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPACTaylor’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!

Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC
Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC
Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC
Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC
Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC
Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC
Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC
One of my favorite things about being around Taylor and Danielle is seeing how they interact with each other. Like any other couple, they have their own inside jokes and humor, and although the things they do to express these jokes is different after Taylor’s accident, they’ve already adapted to the change. Sometimes I catch Taylor making a “fist” with his left nub and then he and Danielle shake their fists at each other. It’s endearing and makes me smile knowing Danielle can still pick up on Taylor’s humor even when his body is unable to express the same language it used to.

Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC

Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC

Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC

Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC

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.

Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC

Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC

Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC

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.

Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC

Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC

Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC

Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC

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!

Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC

Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC

Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC

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 Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC

Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC

Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC

Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC

Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC Dan Gable

Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC

Taylor’s aunt, Cindy Johnson, headed the event. Without her, the event would not have been so successful!

Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC

Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC

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.

Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC

Ben put together this wonderful video that played at the event as well!

Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC

Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC

Danielle’s parents, Paula and Shawn dancing.

Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC

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.

Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC

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.”

Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC

Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC

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.

Taylor Morris quadruple amputee quad stands walks otto bock x2 prosthetics, Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Waterloo Iowa, New York City, TODAY show, Danielle, Girlfriend, Sailor, Navy, fund raiser, unstoppable, PIPAC

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

Did you see my friend Taylor come home?

blog, Taylor Morris
This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Taylor Morris

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 had last visited Taylor, Danielle and Juli out in Washington DC in the middle of August, 2012. As we were packing up, Juli was chatting Riley and my ears off, as per usual. Her joyful chatter often hints at her wishes as a mother; whether it be what things she hopes for her son in the future or what changes to make to the website, there’s often a little “Easter egg” of requests. So when she began talking about how friends back home were wishing to welcome Taylor home with a small parade, I listened. On the way home, Riley and I talked a little bit about the politics of what would happen if Taylor “snuck” into town for the first time, unannounced to the community.  Taylor and Danielle were coming home for the first time August 30th to celebrate their very good friend’s wedding. I know Taylor’s wishes were to have his homecoming on the weekend of his official fundraiser to be held on October 19th, but we knew how symbolically important Taylor’s new feet touching Iowa ground for the first time would be to everyone.

 

When I got home, I contacted fellow “Team Taylor” member Ben Hagarty to brain storm ideas about throwing a small parade for Taylor the afternoon of the 30th.  Once the idea hit Ben’s brain, there was no stopping him, even if it wasn’t what Taylor wanted. He went out and contacted everyone he could about helping him get everything together in time. His uncle, Tom Hagarty, is a very active member of Amvets, and when he pushed a couple buttons and told a couple people what was happening, northeast Iowa lit up. All the news sources pushed the event, facebook went crazy for a week, area schools announced school would be let out early for the parade, and local businesses and community members put countless hours into making sure Taylor felt the love of the Cedar Valley when he got home. Ben ran around, got awfully sun burnt, and didn’t sleep much, but I’ll tell you what, he sure did rally up the troops! Literally!

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor’s immediate family and a few good friends waited on the tarmac for Taylor’s private flight to arrive.  The flight left about 40 minutes late, and even though schools were let out early for a heat advisory, no one would consider skipping out on the biggest welcome home party anyone has ever seen. Heat be damned, our community anxiously waited hours for their soldier to report back home.  The minutes leading up to his plane landing were so exciting.  We were receiving updates from the control tower saying “40 miles out, 30 miles out, 20 miles out.” We stood there, poised to run out to the plane, for what felt like hours. Once his twin prop “puddle jumper” touched down at ALO, we all cheered and headed out to greet him as the staircase lowered from the aircraft.

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor’s grandparents on his father’s side, Sid and Alvira Morris, walk out to the tarmac wielding baloons and a camera. This would be their first time seeing their beloved grandson in person since his accident.

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor’s grandfather, Sid, wraps his big, loving arms around Taylor. Of the 160,000 pictures I have taken in my professional career thus far, I don’t think there’s a single picture that captures more emotion than this.  Taylor’s dad, Dan, told me later that he can count on one hand how many times he’s seen his father cry. I know it was one of the happiest moments in Sid’s life–To be blessed enough to stand face-to-face and hug his grandson again against all odds.

 

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor’s grandpa Don Krull and his wife Bonnie were equally pleased to finally see Taylor.

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

I think Taylor wanted to kill us when he first landed. He whispered half sarcastically, “This is my nightmare.” Taylor is too modest to ever ask for anything like this, but as you can tell by the smile in this picture, he was won over and very appreciative of everyone’s support.

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

I’m not very good at estimating, so I’ll safely guess somewhere between 16 people and 137 billion people showed up to smile, wave, and cheer for Taylor. I’ve never been more proud of my tight-knit community as I was when the parade route crossed the bridge coming into our quaint and beautiful historic downtown, seeing it packed full of people screaming and cheering.

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Seeing Taylor walk up to his house for the first time was pretty magical. There was this sense of “everything is going to be ok” that flowed through me. To see things resume-as-was was relieving. We sat around for a couple hours laughing, joking around and hanging out like old times. Taylor didn’t need to verbally express himself–his smile said it all: it was good to be home. Taylor even cut his friend Jason’s much overgrown beard. Jason had been growing his beard since January, waiting to cut it until Taylor got home. Needless to say, it was an amusing event! Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

That evening us guys spent the night regaling each other with laughter filled tales of high school stupidity around a bon fire for Mike’s bachelor party. Stories about Mike, Taylor and everyone else could have kept us there all night, but we called it a night at a reasonable time.  We would reconvene on Saturday for our traditional Saturday noon burrito at Pablo’s and then met up at Mike and Hanna’s wedding later that afternoon.

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

It was a wonderful change of pace to enjoy Mike and Hanna’s beautiful wedding from behind a drum set instead of behind a camera for the first time all summer. Although it had been years since I had played drums, I wiped the dust and rust off and three of us got together and played music during their ceremony. It was fitting to play drums in front of this group of friends again as we spent many nights back in the day at local music shows. I used to play drums in a local hardcore band known as “Safie.” For those of you into mediocre hardcore music played by high school students in 2004, I urge you to check out all of Safie’s two albums at your local burnt CD warehouse.

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

I go to a lot of weddings (27 this year alone) and I genuinely enjoy them all, but as far as fun weddings go, I think this one took the cake. To have all our friends in one place celebrating the love of two wonderful people was exactly what I think everyone was craving.  Earlier this summer Taylor was set to be in his friend Shane Cross’ wedding. Knowing Taylor would be deployed during that time, Shane made Taylor an honorary groomsman. Even though Taylor and Danielle were at that wedding in spirit (and watched a live stream of the wedding online), I think it was comforting for everyone to see him physically attend a wedding.

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

^^This picture represents a lot more than the sum of its pixels to me. This picture brings me back to May 4th, 2012. The day after Taylor was injured. I met with Neal Price (the one who’s tie appears to like his shoulder more than his chest) for dinner at my favorite sit-down Mexican restaurant downtown Cedar Falls: Los Cabos. I couldn’t hold it together when I first saw Neal; I broke down and cried standing there in the lobby. Neal was very well composed and reminded me everything was going to be ok. We spent the remainder of dinner on the patio of Los Cabos doing our best to imagine what Taylor was going through at that moment. Neal helped keep me be positive, but I’ll admit, I was a mess. That night, I remember imagining very vividly what Taylor’s quality of life would look like in 6 months, a year, 5 years, etc etc.  I could paint a better and better picture with each passing time frame, but there is no way I could have EVER in a million years imagined this image of Taylor standing tall, laughing and living life fully.

This is Taylor less than FOUR MONTHS after his life was impossibly saved by the marvels of modern science, incredibly brave souls, and by nothing short of a long list of miracles.  Ask any professional who deals with traumatic injury and amputees, people simply don’t get to this point this quickly. Most amputees don’t stand within the first three months, nor do they even consider walking in 6 months. So to see a man dancing, gracefully, with out stutter for hours in less than four months, screams of Taylor’s great power, strength and determination. Not all credit is his own though, as he will attest he would not be moving this quickly if it wasn’t for Danielle. Taylor tearfully expressed in an emotional speech at Walter Reed while receiving a Bronze Star with Valor, the most beautifully sad words I’ve ever heard: “If I had hands, I’d take this Bronze Star and pin it on Danielle. It’s been so hard and she’s been here the whole time.”

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

The rest of the weekend Taylor and Danielle enjoyed time with their families and friends. Monday night was Taylor and Danielle’s last night in town before they returned to Walter Reed to continue Taylor’s rehabilitation. A few of us ate dinner downtown and then went out to the Morris house for a celebratory, low rent, redneck fireworks show.

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor and Danielle walking downtown Cedar Falls, which was decorated for Taylor’s homecoming. The marque at the Oster Regent Theatre says it all, “Taylor Morris, Hero, Welcome home”.

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

Taylor Morris, quad amputee, comes home to a parade in Waterloo and Cedar Falls Iowa, photographed by photographer Tim Dodd Photography, Taylor Morris Otto Bock X2 double above knee amputation

I think our fireworks were just the right amount of reckless to be nostalgic, which made for some high tension entertainment. I could tell no one wanted to call it a night, but we eventually said our goodbyes and well wishes. I thought to myself that night what things I could expect of Taylor when he comes home again in October. I quickly gave up knowing whatever futile attempt to dream up where Taylor would be in a month would be greatly overshadowed by what he’ll actually accomplish.

Going out of order, I’m going to take you back to Taylor and Danielle dancing. I think you need to see a video of this man; see his movements, see his joy, see his strength, see his love in motion.

Now grab someone you love and slow dance with them, as Danielle will tell you, you may never know when the next time you’ll be able to do so with your loved one.

Read the follow up to this story HERE.

To keep up to date with Taylor’s progress, make a donation, or buy a Taylor Morris T-Shirt; please visit www.taylormorris.org

To see more pictures from Mike and Hanna’s wedding, please visit photographer Austin Day’s album of their day.

A HUGE thank you to all the Waterloo and Cedar Falls policemen, the Black Hawk County Sheriffs Department, the Cedar Falls and Waterloo fire fighters, Amvets, Freedom Riders and all others who helped make the parade go so incredibly smoothly!!! It wouldn’t have been possible with out all your help and hard work!

Do you know my friend Taylor Morris?

blog, Taylor Morris
This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Taylor Morris

Being from Iowa, it’s only natural at some point in your life that you’ll end up meeting someone in a corn field.  All kidding aside, this is exactly how I met one of my best friends, Taylor Morris. In the summer of 2003, I was randomly assigned by my detasseling superior to be the leader of a row with a bunch of 14 year old “kids.” Being 18 myself, I was disappointed to be separated from friends my age.  This tiny moment in time changed my life forever.

Our friendship sparked immediately and from that day on, I spent almost every day with Taylor and his friends working on cars, motorcycles and having all sorts of dangerous adventures.  He and his group of tight knit friends kept the boy in me alive.  At the time, I was self conscious about hanging out with such young guys, but we simply had the best time, so I quickly got over it.  They still knew how to be adventurous, live to the fullest and sometimes be tastefully mischievous.

Taylor and I remained close friends until he graduated from high school.  After high school, Taylor pursued a career with the Navy.  I was less than thrilled with his decision, but tried to stay supportive none-the-less.  I told him, if he even once felt like the military wasn’t the right path that he should drop out and we could go to ninja school together.  I didn’t see him much and we didn’t stay in touch very well.  He ended up becoming a member of an elite class of soldiers known as the EOD. The Explosive Ordinance Disposal teams are the first men on the battle field.  They clear paths of explosives for other soldiers, literally putting their lives on the line for their fellow men.  The last time he was in Cedar Falls was over Christmas, 2011.  I missed the opportunity to catch up because shorty after, Taylor was deployed to Afghanistan.  So when I received this message from Taylor, Sunday June 10th, 2012, I was thrilled.

 

Tim Dodd Photography receives a text from his friend Taylor Morris from Cedar Falls Iowa

This text message made me leap out of my chair, a single tear come to my eye, and immediately start searching for flights.

 

If you don’t know why this text message is anything but extraordinary, let me back up 6 weeks.

On May 3, 2012, Taylor stepped on an IED.  When the news hit our hometown of Cedar Falls, Iowa, our community dropped to their knees.  The damage Taylor sustained was extremely severe.  The explosion blew off his legs, his left arm and his right hand.  After receiving immediate medical attention in Afghanistan, he transferred to a hospital in Germany, and May 6th was taken to Walter Reed Medical Academy in Washington DC to begin the long rehabilitation process.

That following week his closest friends began meeting nightly to figure out how best to help support Taylor. Within days we had a website, a facebook page, a twitter feedT-shirt and bracelet designs, and were working hard on planning a benefit event for Taylor.

I’m not here to tell you about what happened to Taylor in great detail, or to try and keep you up to date with his day-to-day life;  I’m here to share with you what I witnessed when his childhood friend, Neal Price and I had the honor of catching up with an old friend this past weekend.

 

Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Iowa vists friend Taylor Morris. Taylor is a quad amputee who lost his limbs while serving in Afghanistan

We arrived in Washington DC at 12:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 16, following a quick flight directly from Chicago.  We went straight to bed so we could see Taylor in the morning.  I was a little nervous to see Taylor, not knowing if I’d be emotional or if Taylor would really care to hang out too much. I wasn’t sure what to expect and those thoughts kept me up that night.

The following morning we rushed up to Taylor’s room as soon as Danielle (Taylor’s long-time girlfriend) sent us a text message saying they were up and ready.  We walked into the room to see Taylor sitting in his wheelchair, Danielle on his hospital bed, and a nurse at their side dressing Taylor’s wounds on his legs.  I had seen many pictures of Taylor in this state, so I was ready to see his injuries up close and personal.  Taylor and Danielle both flashed us a quick smile, but their attention immediately returned to the dressing.  This anti-climatic greeting helped ease my nerves.  It made me immediately snap out of any thoughts of pity or feeling sorry and put me right smack in the middle of his current life.

Once the nurse left, we picked up conversation where we left off years before.  Taylor is still the exact same person he always was.  We talked about everything: Cars, motorcycles, the incident itself, their future, their plans, their goals and expectations.

 

 

Taylor showed us around his room, showed off all the tricks he’s acquired in the past month, and joked around with us just like always.  The passionate spark was still in his kind eyes when he laughed, but they are even more lit up when he looks into Danielle’s eyes.  He admires the beautiful woman he has at his side.  He adores her, and rightfully so.

 

Tim Dodd Photography visits his long time friend Taylor Morris from Cedar Falls Iowa who is a quad amputee from injuries fighting in Afghanistan

Taylor and Danielle’s bodies work in perfect harmony; she selflessly sacrifices temporary use of her own limbs to serve as Taylor’s many times throughout the day.

 

More of our hometown friends met up that Saturday afternoon.  Chris and Kathryn drove up from North Carolina, six hours each way to spend two hours with Taylor and Danielle.  We all had such a good time reminiscing about things back home and about all the trouble Taylor and “the boys” had caused in Cedar Falls back in the day.  He’s still as daring as ever before.  On our way to a barbecue, Taylor spontaneously decided to go off-roading and try to climb a large dirt mound on his electric wheelchair, to the amusement and surprise of us all. Taylor blew us all away with his attitude.  He didn’t slow down, he didn’t complain ONCE, and he is sincerely thankful for his second chance at life. This attitude is contagious and immediately obvious to all those who work with Taylor on a day-to-day basis. You can tell in his big, puppy dog eyes that he is genuinely thankful for the love, support and encouragement he’s been receiving from everyone.

 

Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Iowa visits friend and quad amputee Taylor Morris who was injured while serving in Afghanistan

Taylor and Danielle still stop and enjoy the little things. Although it’s not holding hands while watching a movie, nub holding will suffice.

 

We were in the room with Taylor one night watching a movie when a new nurse came in to give him his pills.  She’s a kind, soft spoken Jamaican woman, who after briefly chatting with Taylor said, “Boy, you have a beautiful attitude.” Her face lit up when he nodded modestly with a soft spoken, humble “Thank you.” As she walked out of the room, she gently proclaimed “You’re such a sweetheart.” Come to find out, admiration from the staff at Walter Reed comes often for Taylor.

Another Doctor told Taylor, “You’re the most injured one here, yet you’re the easiest to work with.”  I couldn’t agree more.  Taylor didn’t complain to them even when things weren’t ideal.  You can tell his goal is not to stay in that room, it’s to get out and continue his life as soon as possible.

Other patients, even the older ones, seem to look up to Taylor.  Everywhere he hurriedly goes on his motorized wheelchair, he leaves a trail of inspired people.  It seems an often occurrence that Taylor is speeding down the hall with Danielle’s teasing voice of concern soon to follow.

 

Tim Dodd Photography of Cedar Falls Iowa visits friend Taylor Morris a quad amputee injured while serving in Afghanistan

Juli caused quite the stir when she told the physical trainer that he’s taking it too easy on Taylor. She was right, though…Taylor is there to work hard.

 

Speaking of voices of concern, Taylor’s mom Juli is always close by.  She’s there as a constant reminder of how important things like posture, bands around his legs, compression sleeves, getting vertical and eating good food are.  Juli is not (and never has been) your typical mom.   She picks on Taylor now just like she always has, which is good for Taylor because it subconsciously serves as a reminder that there’s nothing wrong with YOU. She likes to triple check all the work done by the doctors–not because she doesn’t trust the doctors or Danielle’s watchful eye–she’s just a mom, and that’s what moms do.

Danielle is an incredible woman.  She dropped everything she was doing, put her plans aside, and rushed to Taylor’s side.  I remember when Taylor and her first started dating in high school. We teased him thinking she might be trouble.  Now I would still agree with that, she is trouble.  She helps Taylor cause mischief around the hospital. Things like drag racing wheelchairs against him or stealing the whole two gallon tub of ice cream from the hospital freezer, she helps Taylor stay Taylor.

 

Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Iowa visits Taylor Morris his quad amputee friend who lost his limbs fighting in Afghanistan

I think this picture portrays them best. Taylor working his absolute hardest while Danielle looks onward admiringly.

 

She even challenges him constantly in the smallest ways.  While she was laying in Taylor’s bed, Taylor asked if she wanted ice cream. Without hesitation she purposefully requested, “Sure, pass it down.”  You could tell by the little smirk on her face that she was giving him a challenge and forcing him to use his manners.  This tiny challenge, something that would be so easy for you or me, is a much bigger ordeal for Taylor.  Most of us would feel sorry for Taylor and get up and serve ourselves, but she knows these challenges will help him regain his independence.  Taylor has never ever backed down from a challenge and this attitude still lives on with him. She doesn’t baby Taylor because she fully knows Taylor isn’t a baby, he’s a full grown, incredibly strong man who is on a long, grueling path towards normalcy.

 

 

Their life together consists of new routines.  Most days it’s in and out of physical therapy, wound care and the prosthetic lab.  Danielle is always there and takes as much of the events on herself as she can.  My favorite thing is how even during these routines, they still find time to flirt and continue showing their love to one another constantly.

 

Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Iowa visits friend Taylor Morris, a quad amputee who lost all four limbs while fighting in Afghanstan

There’s a lot of waiting to be had. Although the waits are annoying, they chit chat to keep each other company.

 

Their routine days are beginning to draw to a close as Taylor continues to make progress.  While Neal and I were there, we got the feeling he didn’t want to be left out when we went out to dinner, or downtown DC, so he didn’t exclude himself.  We could not have been more ecstatic to know we didn’t have to split our time between site seeing and Taylor.  He simply came with us.  This milestone of leaving the hospital and traveling downtown will surely remain in all of our minds.  It was Taylor literally at the crossroads between patient and civilian.  I loved seeing his eyes sparkle when we saw the rockets at the Air and Space museum, or when we went through the art exhibits at the Hirshhorn Art Museum.

 

Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Iowa visits friend Taylor Morris who is a quad amputee who lost his limbs fighting in Afghanistan

Taylor and Danielle clearly still living, smiling and loving at the Hirshhorn Sculpture Museum.

 

Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Iowa visits friend Taylor Morris who is a quad amputee who was injured while serving in Afghanistan

Taylor and Danielle still have the same love for life they’ve always  had. I know she misses his hands as much as he does, but they’re moving on.

 

If there’s one thing I learned this weekend, it is that Taylor remains to be his typical humble, adventurous, fun, sincere and passionate self.  He does not want to be called a hero.  He states “I was simply doing my job, which I knew the risks of. The people who went into known danger to save my life are the real heros.” Taylor might not want to acknowledge being a hero on the battle field, but in my opinion, he can’t deny being the strongest inspiration to everyone who hears his story.  The bomb took much more than his limbs, it took his independence, privacy, ease of living and maybe most importantly to him and Danielle, their favorite way of showing love for one another, hand holding.  Yet through all this, Taylor is determined.  He is not letting his situation get him down or even get in his way.  He soldiers on fighting to make strides not only for himself, but for Danielle, for his family, for his friends, for his community and for his country.  I told Taylor, “When you feel like slowing down, just remember we’re all waiting for you to come home so we can hang out.” I could tell in the intensity of his stare, he took that as an order.

 

Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Iowa vists friend Taylor Morris. Taylor is a quad amputee who lost his limbs while serving in Afghanistan

 

When I first met Taylor, I really hoped he looked up to me. I’m in awe by how much the tables have turned. I don’t look up to anyone more than I look up to Taylor.  He’s the greatest inspiration, the strongest fighter, and he will continue to amaze us all with his progress.

 

Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Iowa vists friend Taylor Morris. Taylor is a quad amputee who lost his limbs while serving in Afghanistan

So back to that text message I received from Taylor June 10th, this is how he did it.

 

Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Iowa vists friend Taylor Morris. Taylor is a quad amputee who lost his limbs while serving in Afghanistan

 

Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Iowa vists friend Taylor Morris. Taylor is a quad amputee who lost his limbs while serving in Afghanistan

Taylor working with Danielle and his physical trainer.

 

Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Iowa vists friend Taylor Morris. Taylor is a quad amputee who lost his limbs while serving in Afghanistan

Taylor and his friend since age 4, Neal Price.

 

Tim Dodd Photography from Cedar Falls Iowa visits friend Taylor Morris, a quad amputee veteran injured in duty while in Afghanistan.

Me, Chris, Kathryn, Taylor, Danielle and Neal at a cookout on Walter Reed’s base.

 

Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Iowa vists friend Taylor Morris. Taylor is a quad amputee who lost his limbs while serving in Afghanistan

Taylor waiting to receive wound care from the so called “wound wizards.”

 

Tim Dodd Photography Cedar Falls Iowa vists friend Taylor Morris. Taylor is a quad amputee who lost his limbs while serving in Afghanistan

Because of men like Taylor, we live in a free country, the great United States of America.

Read the follow up to this story here.