Man with cerebral palsy enjoys train visit in South Texas
May. 16, 2018
HARLINGEN, Texas (AP) — It was 17 years in the making for 22-year-old Dominik Torres.
The Valley Morning Star reports he recently waited impatiently at the Union Pacific Rail Yard on Fair Park Boulevard in Harlingen for his dream to become a reality.
Vivid memories of his grandfather make him smile every time he hears or sees a train. He had yearned to ride in a locomotive since he was a young boy.
Dominik's grandfather, Gonzalo Gonzales, or "GG," was a train engineer for 45 years.
"We got to ride on the train, we got to travel on the train all the time," said Dominik's mother Velma Torres.
Gonzales promised Dominik he would take him for a ride on the train. But Dominik, who has cerebral palsy, suffered a stroke at age 5. And soon after that, his grandfather was diagnosed with cancer and died before he could take Dominik for a ride on the train.
He has dreamed of boarding a train since then and he feels a strong connection to them because of his grandfather.
"When we travel and hear a train, we know my dad is with us," said Velma.
She said the sound of a train is a sign to them that he is always with them. Dominik nodded his head in agreement.
Velma is friends with Cameron County Constable Eddie Solis on Facebook and saw that he had been on a train during a railroad crossing safety event last year.
"She follows me on Facebook and saw that I was on a train one time and contacted me," said Solis.
Solis, who often goes out of his way to help children, said he contacted Union Pacific Special Agent Juan Sosa to see what could be worked out.
"Thankfully, he was able to help me out," Solis said.
So on that Thursday afternoon, wearing a train pin on his lapel that belonged to his grandfather, Dominik waited anxiously in the car for Solis and his Precinct 5 deputies to arrive, as well as Special Agent Sosa.
While he waited, he clenched his fists and excitedly shook his arms up and down and exclaimed, "I'm gonna get on the train!"
His dream was finally coming true.
When Constable Solis and his deputies arrived, Dominik was put in his wheelchair and they waited for Agent Sosa.
His face lit up even more when Sosa drove up.
He was presented with a railroad cap, a yellow engineer's vest and other mementos by Sosa.
Solis helped him put on the vest and then pushed his wheelchair across the rocky rail yard to the waiting locomotive, part of Nebraska-based Union Pacific.
Dominik was in awe of the train in front of him.
Solis climbed up onto the locomotive to figure out how they were going to get him up there. He looked down and saw Dominik staring at him.
"I know the wheelchair doesn't to fit through here (stairs) and I think Dom was looking at me thinking, you better get me up there," Solis said, laughing.
So after some brainstorming, they decided to move him to the other side of the train.
The rocky terrain made it somewhat difficult to push the wheelchair, so Special Agent Sosa and a captain the Precinct 5 Constable's Office held on to the sides and guided the chair through the rocks with Dominik smiling the whole time.
It took a team effort to lift Dominik out of the chair and carefully up the stairs. Once he was on board the train they put him in the "driver's seat."
He looked out the window and waved, then wanted to know what all the controls were. He especially wanted to know where the horn was.
He had his mother use FaceTime with relatives the whole time he was on the train to excitedly share his long-awaited desire of boarding a train like his grandpa.
After spending some time at the controls, he was helped outside to the walkway that runs alongside the locomotive.
Everyone sat along the edge of the walkway for a photo and then just spent time sharing their excitement with Dominik.
His smile never left his face.
He even suggested going for ice cream afterward, his treat.
He was still very hyped up about what was finally happening after so many years.
Solis suggested to Dominik that he throw his hat up in the air. He threw his hat up, like "Hey I did it!"
The group carried him off the locomotive and back to his wheelchair. His dream had come true. His grandpa would be proud.
"When I was sitting up there with Dom, I felt like a kid again," Solis said. "I saw how excited he was and it felt good, it really did. I'm glad we got him up there".
"What we did here, it came from the heart, and we came together to help them out."
"It was nice to help make his wish come true," added Sosa.
Information from: Valley Morning Star, http://www.valleystar.com