The American Catholic activist Thomas Peters has spoken candidly about the accident that almost claimed his life.
In a frank and moving interview, the 29-year-old, known to Catholics the world over as the blogger American Papist, says his faith has survived the tragedy in which he sustained a severe spinal cord injury.
He says that the accident – which he cannot remember but which occurred after he went for a swim – and the months of painful therapy that followed have taught him an important lesson about interdependence.
“When you’re in my position you realise that [able-bodied people] are simply gods in terms of what you can do,” he says. “You wake up, you have fears and concerns – but what you can physically do is extraordinary. And it doesn’t matter how long you’ve lived that way with physical potential, you only miss it when it’s gone… I still look at myself and think it’s amazing what I can still do.”
Therapy has enabled him to make swift progress that some regard as miraculous.
“My right thumb started moving only a month ago and that’s after a year of injury,” he explains, “and one of the things I’m most grateful for is my left hand. With this kind of injury, I shouldn’t be able to use my hands at all.”
The high-profile marriage campaigner was injured not long after he married his fiancée, Natalie Zmuda. He says that proponents of same-sex marriage had threatened to disrupt his wedding.
“When Natalie and I got married, we had security standing by in case they decided to show up and protest. They were trying to find where we were getting married. And there were numerous threats to show up and say: ‘You don’t believe in our love, we don’t believe in yours.’ I have friends who somewhere had supported me and would be attacked. Their places of business would be attacked… Years after they’d been publicly associated with me.”
But he says he is proud of standing up for traditional marriage and of those who are defending it today.
“I’ve never regretted a minute I’ve spent defending marriage,” he says, “and it’s thrilling to me to see so many people still bravely and brilliantly defending marriage today.”