Do you remember the student who was shot at fsu wd gaster theory

The caregiver must be late. No time to shower, then. Not much time to prepare. In his wheelchair by the TV, by a table cluttered with pill bottles and Nintendo controllers, Ronny scrolls on his phone, trying to pin down how much the National Rifle Association spends in politics. Maybe better to hedge. Who’s listening, anyway?

On the edge of his vision, officers cornered the gunman and screamed, “Freeze, drop your weapon!” A ripple of shots broke out. He would learn later that the gunman, an alumnus suffering from paranoia, was killed. He’d learn two others were hurt, but not like him.

First came the crush of attention. The football team wanted to visit, but they were celebrities, so Ronny declined. He deactivated his Facebook page in a deluge of friend requests. People called him a hero. They changed their statuses to say “FSU Strong.”

It’s almost 10 a.m., two days before the speech. Ronny is groaning in his narrow bed, a yellow blanket shrouding his mop of greasy black hair. The dark room smells of sweat and animals. Ronny’s caregiver, Blaine Howze, a lanky, tattooed 23-year-old, unwraps a catheter and snaps on rubber gloves.

Before, he crocheted. He whittled wood and played piano. He taught himself to breathe fire and take apart circuit boards. He climbed Kilimanjaro and became an Eagle Scout. He knew all the secret places the deer gathered at Wekiwa Springs. He cared for run-over turtles.

He was an outsider, the brown-skinned son of Bangladeshi immigrants at a largely white, Christian school in Orlando. “Fat,” some kids called him. “Gay.” ”Weird.” He got used to the stares, but suffered from depression. He fought with his parents about his bad grades until he got an A and realized such things were possible.

The day before the speech, Ronny slouches in half to rest on his desk in his physics classroom. The professor paces in sneakers, discussing the merits of Technetium-99m and quizzing the class on how long a certain radioactive tracer should last in medical scans.

Students type, while in the back row, Ronny breathes heavily, using his fist to work the lump in his side. His leg quakes involuntarily, and he fans himself with a spiral notebook. One of his tattoos, an illustration of the bullet wound on his upper arm, peeks out from his sleeve.

He had tried a full course load after the shooting but struggled to keep pace with lectures and assignments, often falling asleep in the first minutes of class. That full load dwindled to half, then to this semester’s single course. Graduation day hovers sometime in 2021 — a decade from the day Ronny arrived as a freshman.

Ronny talks about the NRA and its lobbying. Major corporations, he says, pump millions into our politics, pitting us against each other. He has so much more to say — about dirty money and broken systems and how nobody should have to fight so hard to live half of a normal life in the so-called greatest country on Earth — but feels he should keep it short.

Ronny’s still not sure what difference these sound bites make. But in his relief that his part is over, he lets the reverend’s conviction wash over him. He lets himself feel that all of this effort has to be adding up to something. Just like his nights in the library and unbearable hours with doctors. He has to believe that things won’t always be like this. He has to believe, at least in this moment, that he can make a difference.