Sometimes it takes the worst to see people at their best. For Bobby Model, a photographer who has worked for this magazine and a world-class climber, the worst happened two years ago while traveling in Cape Town, South Africa, with his sister, Faith. A concrete block crashed through the windshield and struck his head, causing massive brain injuries. Doctors doubted he would survive. Though never solved, the case was investigated as an act of random violence. That’s the darkest side of humanity.
Now, here’s the best. Witnesses fled except one man, who stopped, called an ambulance, and made sure Bobby got to the best hospital. “He saved his life,” his mother, Anne Young, said. Bobby Model, veteran of many mountaineering expeditions, embarked on the longest expedition of his life. After a month, still in a coma, he was flown to New York City for surgery, then to Denver’s Craig Hospital for rehabilitation. His family is his center of gravity, of course; his sister says it’s a gift to be there for the person you love. But Bobby’s big heart touched many, and many reached out in return. Schoolchildren in his hometown of Cody, Wyoming, sent cards. A blog for climbers posted a thousand messages. Friends flew in to visit, surrounding him with love.
“Sometimes I have to kick myself when I take my life for granted,” Bobby once wrote. “I’ve been fortunate to witness so many amazing human moments.” Now, Bobby’s drive propels him from one amazing moment to the next. “You see it in his eyes,” his mother said. “He is figuring it out.” He gets around in a wheelchair, talks, and laughs. He snaps with a point-and-shoot in his right hand, and, because his left hand lacks strength, the staff at Craig will rig a bigger, heavier camera on his wheelchair. The expedition continues. There is far to go. “But he is so much with us now,” Anne Young added. “He shows a sense of humor and sweetness that is pure Bobby.”
Recently, he wrote his friends:
OK, everybody you can stop crying for me now. Thanks, though.
Photo: Rich Clarkson