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Letter: Wheelchair traveler an inspiration

Gabriel Cordell, of Burbank, Calif., is surrounded by

Gabriel Cordell, of Burbank, Calif., is surrounded by supporters as he completes his cross country trek in his wheel chair in West Hempstead, where he is originally from. (July 8, 2013) Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

I was in the cheering crowd at West Hempstead High School on July 8 when friend and fellow Class of 1988 alumnus Gabriel Cordell completed his 3,100-mile trip from California to Long Island, becoming the first person to travel cross-country on a standard wheelchair .

I have never seen West Hempstead so alive and vibrant. The sight of Gabe coming down Nassau Boulevard with a police and fire department escort gave me shivers. He pushed himself through the sweltering Arizona heat. Mile after mile, coast to coast. It's difficult for me to go 3,100 feet without reaching for a cold one and a bologna sandwich.

Twenty years after he was paralyzed in a car accident, Gabe has taken a terrible situation and turned it into a positive story. Because of him, I feel more hope in my heart. He has inspired me to work out more. I showed videos of his story to my children to impress upon them that they can accomplish anything through hard work and determination. Based on his achievement, I think we can all take a minute and wonder, "What could I be doing today to reach my full potential?" And Gabe might ask, "What are you waiting for?"

Chris Williamson, Merrick