Paralyzed motorcycle admirer gets welcome home to remember
By TOM SMITH
MUSCLE SHOALS, Ala. (AP) — Wayne Emerson couldn't believe what he was seeing when more than 20 motorcycle riders lined up to escort him home one afternoon.
The riders were waiting on Emerson as he and his wife, Traci, made their way from the Shepard Center in Atlanta to Muscle Shoals.
"They led us in," said Emerson, a motorcycle enthusiast who was severely injured in a crash in March that left him paralyzed from his waist down. "I couldn't believe they were there for me."
But the escort wasn't the only surprise for the 44-year-old Muscle Shoals resident.
When Emerson and his two-wheel escorts rolled into his residence off Wilson Dam Road, he got another surprise.
"There was a ramp (leading into the house), and they had completely modified the house making it handicapped-accessible," he said. "I don't get emotional, but to see what they did for me, I had a lump in my throat. I felt very humbled."
Jennifer Griffith, who helped organize the welcome home, said the escort and the work on the residence came from a collaboration of area motorcycle riders.
She said all area motorcycle clubs, riding clubs and other organizations, as well as Mike's Help Hands and God's Garage Ministry in Florence, came together to help Emerson.
She said Cameron and Kelly Brooks, and Michael and Randal George were instrumental in building a ramp and making modifications on the house.
Traci Emerson knew about the surprises, and even had seen a little of the modifications to their home, but she was still amazed by everything that had been done.
"(The motorcycle clubs) came together and made this happen," she said. "It's so wonderful."
She said the clubs do a lot for people that the public never hears about.
"I've seen what they do," she said. "We're not in a club, but we have ridden with some of these guys for years, and they are more than willing to help out people in need."
Griffith said when a need rises, area motorcycle clubs react.
"We saw a need for Wayne and that's how this started and came together," she said.
She said Emerson has always been the one who was ready to step up with support, or be involved in a fundraiser to help others.
"Everyone said I was an inspiration for this, since I was always being involved in fundraisers or putting one on for someone," Emerson said. "All I could think about was what have I ever done to be worthy of this. I feel so humbled and honored."
The surprises aren't over for Emerson. The group is working on customizing a three-wheel motorcycle he will be able to ride.
"I'm 44, I've been riding since I was 13," he said. "It's been hard for me to accept not being able to ride, but with the three-wheeler, I will get back to doing something I love — riding again."
He said with the compassion he has been shown, he is now more determined than ever to keep working with his rehabilitation to try and improve his condition.
"From the waist down, I'm paralyzed, but I'll make do with whatever God has in store for me. And I have a bigger desire than ever to give back and help others like I've been helped."