Friday, June 27, 2014

Survivor Story: Allen Wayne McNeil

Shooting survivor Allen Wayne McNeil
Today we have a survivor story from guest blogger Allen Wayne McNeil.  In 2012, he survived being shot three times in front of his residence, in Mobile, Alabama.  Wayne is now an advocate for stronger gun regulation to keep others from being victims.  Here is the account, in his own words, of his harrowing experience....

On October 10th 2012, I became a victim of gun violence in America. I have never tried to collect all of my thoughts and recollections about the experience in one place.  Perhaps now is the time.

I came home from work later than usual that evening and settled into the swing underneath the large old oak tree in my front yard to wind down. My former neighborhood was not one of the better in midtown Mobile, AL, but I had lived there for 10 years and thought nothing of being outside after dark. I suppose it was this complacency that contributed in at least a small part to being shot that evening. I was listening to music through headphones, blissfully unaware of the world around me. 

Deciding at around 11:30pm that it was getting late, I got out of the swing and headed to the front door of my house and heard what I though was a firecracker explode. I turned towards the sound and saw two men walking down the side walk.  I continued towards the door and heard a second firecracker go off, the men were following me. With the second blast I remember thinking “why are they throwing these things at me?” There was an odd sensation of air being compressed around my torso paired with what felt like an equal expansion inside my body. Somewhere in the next few seconds I saw the gun and began to realize they were shooting at me (at this point I had been shot once through the upper arm and once through my chest.) I tripped over a planter and fell down with my back to the door. I do not remember any details about my shooters appearance, but I will never forget him asking “do you like my gun” holding it out towards me to see. I raised my arm to shield myself and felt the third bullet hit my body, just below my armpit. It was in this moment that I knew they would just keep shooting me over and over if I didn’t get inside the house. I reached up and opened the door and crawled inside. 

Once inside the house I stood up, walked over to the table and grabbed a shirt to press against my wounds. I saw the terrified look on my roommate’s face from where she stood at the end of the hallway. It was in this moment that fear became a part of the whole experience. I started to walk towards her, she was telling me to lie down and stay still. I was so fevered and kept asking for a wet washcloth. (I later learned a few weeks later that she was afraid they would fire into the house and was frightened to walk to the bathroom to get me the washcloth.)

As I lay on the tile floor, I felt the most intense pain in my abdomen, weird cramps that would not subside. I started to think of all of the things that I hadn’t finished that week and thought “is this what it feels like to die?” I wondered how long it would take the paramedics to arrive. Next a fairly calm belief that “this isn’t all I get, I will wake up tomorrow” settled over me.

I guess about 15 minutes from the first shot being fired the police arrived and began asking me
questions, shortly after the ambulance was outside. I answered questions as thoroughly as I could in the pain and confusion. While the EMT’s were attending to me on the ambulance, I remember asking them “to keep me alive until we get to the hospital.” I guess I was in surgery by 12:00 am. Here is where the events become less detailed, I recall hearing voices, being awake, seeing bright hospital lights. I regained consciousness the next day in the ICU.

The bullet removed from Wayne McNeil's back.
The shooters used a 9mm handgun and three bullets went through my body, hitting one lung, stomach, liver, and destroying my gallbladder. The third bullet lodged in the small of my back about 2” from my spine. It was removed a few weeks later and I have it as a souvenir of sorts. My torso bears a myriad of scars both from the bullets and surgery. I remained in the hospital for eight days, spent the next two weeks recovering at family and friends' homes. During that recovery period my house was packed up and moved to a new neighborhood. Three and half weeks later I went back to work.  

I feel so fortunate to have survived this ordeal and to be able to lend my voice to the debate of gun control issues in our country. Mostly I feel lucky that anger and fear aren’t a part of the emotions I have about becoming a victim. In some regards it is hard to even view myself as a victim, when I woke up in the hospital I was surrounded by an endless stream of family and friends. Mobile, particularly historic downtown where I have worked for years, rallied behind my recovery. I felt and still feel so much more love than pain.

To present date the shooters have not been identified by the police, the case is still open but not actively being investigated. The crime was officially listed as attempted robbery, though the criminals never asked for nor tried to take anything. I have wondered if, (and in fair disclosure… this is pure speculation on my part,) listing my shooting as attempted robbery somehow makes the crime rate in Mobile, AL look better, statistically.

It has taken me almost two years to feel comfortable talking about my experience publicly. The questions I am left with have less to do with whether or not my shooters will ever be caught, and more to do with how we solve this problem. Before being shot I was always in favor of gun control reform, but now I feel compelled to be an active participant in asking for sensible legislation that will ensure that unnecessary deaths do not happen. I am currently trying to find the best way to represent and advocate gun crime victims and survivors. I hope I can be a part of making positive changes in the way we think about guns and crime in America.

My name is Allen Wayne McNeil, I became a gun violence victim of October 10th 2012 and when I woke up on the 11th I became a survivor!

ADDENDUM (from Baldr): Thank you, Wayne, for sharing your story.  It takes courage to do so, yet can make such a difference, for the voices of survivors and the families of victims are the strongest to call for commonsense gun regulation.

Wayne McNeil's is one of a number of survivor stories posted here at New Trajectory.  You can also find others, or add your own survival story or the story of loved ones injured or killed by gun violence, at the links found in one of my previous posts, HERE.