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Continued: The Wades have a lesson to teach

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: November 11, 2008 - 11:42 PM

Bobby Wade pulled his SUV into a parking lot on the 50th Street side of Washburn High School around 2 p.m. Tuesday. There was a long wheelchair ramp leading to the nearest entrance.

Wade, a Vikings receiver, stepped into a freezing drizzle that was lightly falling. He opened the vehicle's boot, took out a wheelchair, went to the passenger's door and talked briefly with his older brother James.

A moment later, Bobby lifted James, placed him in the wheelchair and then started pushing the chair toward the ramp and the Minneapolis public school's side entrance.

The Wade brothers had made a presentation at Washburn a year earlier. They were back again to dramatize this truth: That young people have choices, and the decisions they make when faced with those choices carry either good or bad consequences.

James Wade made terrible decisions as a teenager and now, at 33, he has spent half of his life in a wheelchair. Bobby Wade, 27, took advantage of his possibilities and now is in his sixth NFL season.

There were a couple of hundred students in the Washburn auditorium. The program was late getting started and this led to a premature conclusion.

James Wade still was in the process of describing the details of the night of Oct. 8, 1991, when the final hour bell sounded, meaning the students had only a few minutes to get to the busses.

Amid the scurrying, a student asked James, a Phoenix resident, if he could come back to finish his story.

"I'm going to be here for a while; we'll try to do that,'' he said.

Bobby also had talked to the students for a few minutes. The Wade parents were divorced when he was 5, with James and a sister living with their mother and Bobby and another sister with their father.

In the wake of this unsettled situation, Bobby said he took advantage of "every coach, every teacher, and I took advantage of my friends' parents. I took advice and direction from everyone who could help me.''

Later, in a conversation, James said: "Bobby grew up facing the same temptations that I did. Even before I was shot, I was telling him, 'You don't want my life. You're going to stay in school, stay away from the dropouts, stay away from drugs.' ''

That message gained considerable strength when James took a bullet to the neck from a 9-millimeter.

"I basically bled out,'' James said. "They called me 'dead on arrival' at the hospital. They put me in something called a 'life suit,' got enough blood in me and brought me back.''

James was closer to dead than alive for four days. It took eight months from taking the bullet to leaving a rehab center in his wheelchair.

"It took me another couple of months to get past the depression, and to decide it was time to do some good with my life,'' he said.

He took the bullet in the area of C-6 and C-7 disks. He's paralyzed from the waist, with limited use of atrophied arms and hands. He weighed 170 pounds at the time of the shooting, dropped to a low of 93 and now weighs 110.

It's a powerful message when James Wade looks at a room full of city kids and says: "I had dropped out of school, was running with the other dropouts who had nothing to do but get in trouble ... I was sent to the juvenile delinquent center.

"When it was time to get out, I told myself, 'You're going back to school, you're going to be the leader you always wanted to be and not follow these dropouts.

"And then nothing changed. Then, exactly 30 days later after I got out, I went to a party, got drunk and smoked marijuana. Another group of guys showed up and there was going to be a fight.

"It had nothing to do with me -- it was straight stupid to get involved -- but there I was, saying 'Let's go, let's fight.' And next thing, I was standing face-to-face with a 9-millimeter.''

He paused and said: "This is my consequence -- this wheelchair -- for a lot of bad decisions.''

Most of the students were looking forward at James Wade and there was a moment of silence in the Washburn auditorium.

Patrick Reusse can be heard weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP at 6:45 and 7:45 a.m. and 4:40 p.m. • preusse@startribune.com

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