MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It was a morning of new classes, new friends, and new challenges for South Florida students who headed back to school Monday but for one tenth grader, the challenges were far greater as he learns to adapt to life in high school in a wheelchair. But even that can’t dampen Aaron Willis’ spirit.
“I’ve been excited since I’ve first been in the hospital,” said Aaron.
Aaron, 15, was riding his bike in December 2012 when he was hit by a single bullet during a drive-by shooting. He’s paralyzed from the waist down. He didn’t see the shooter. Police have few leads.
But in the same spirit and determination that helped Aaron grace his bedroom walls with sports trophies, he moves on with persistent fire that fuels him.
“At first I used to get mad cause I can’t do none of that no more, since it’s been like 8 months, I’m starting to get used to it,” he explained.
It’s not so easy for his dad, Sammie.
“I sit outside the front of that church and me and God talk every morning rain or shine,” said an emotional Sammie Willis.
Still grappling with the past, Sammie’s tears are bittersweet. His son is alive, happy to get back to his friends and teachers at school. But the anger and pain still tears at his soul.
“To watch somebody help him do this and help him do that when he has been so independent with himself. It hurts,” explained Sammie.
But Monday was a cause for celebration and like many parents; Aaron’s mom Katherin had a case of the butterflies.
“Kinda nervous cause this is the first day, but he’s ready and I’m ready,” said Katherin Willis.
Aaron’s parents are behind him, as are his friends, and teachers at Booker T. Washington High School.
“Just a treat to have him back, he deserves to be back, he deserves to be in this setting with his friends, he deserves to be with his teachers,” said Booker T. Washington School Principal William Aristide.
For the Willis family, its one day at a time, but the days are getting brighter.
“This is the beginning of the rest of your life,” said Aaron’s dad.
Aaron replied, “Gotta see how it goes.”
After Aaron was shot, he had to be home-schooled. This is his first time back in class. He said he was most excited to see his old teachers and friends and was looking forward to his math and science classes.
When he gets older, Aaron said he wants to start his own company.