Trent Atchison’s life, as well as that of his family, underwent a drastic change on February 27.
The 17-year-old Escambia County High School junior was standing with a group of friends at a home his mother owns on Fourth Street, laughing and talking about the things teenagers laugh about and talk about, when a classmate pulled up, got out of a car and fired several shots into the crowd.
Seconds later, the unfortunate teen was being rushed to Atmore Community Hospital, barely alive, after a stray bullet ripped through a lung and struck his spine.
Atchison wasn’t the intended target of the gunman, but was the only person hit.
“It’s changed his life; it’s changed the whole family’s life,” said Charles Johnson, the youngster’s surrogate father, of the shooting. “It’s like a hurricane. It leaves everything tore up, then it takes a long time to get over it.”
Atchison’s mother, Annice Cooper, agreed as she recalled the day her son knocked on death’s door and was almost admitted.
“He left here walking and came home in a wheelchair,” Cooper said. “I was getting ready to go to work, and Trent and his friends were hanging out and laughing on the porch of the house next door. Then we heard the shots and found out that Trent had been hit.
“That just shows you how fast your whole life can change. We were blessed that he was still alive, that the doctors were able to save him. He was only dead for a moment, and they brought him back.”
Now the Atmore teen and his loved ones are dealing with the aftermath.
“He has been an awesome young man, and he has been in great spirits,” said Johnson, who has served as Atchison’s father since the youngster’s biological father passed away. “But his mother, his grandmother or somebody has to carry him to his bedroom or from one room to the other, since he can’t get his wheelchair down the hallway.”
Atchison, who has a strong grip but is still partially paralyzed, is making a lot of progress in his recovery, his mother said.
“He can get into a chair or onto his bed by himself now,” she said. “He’s even showering by himself some.”
Still, the road to recovery will be a long one, and the family has to remodel their mobile home to make it more accessible to the wheelchair-bound teen.
“We need to open up the front door and the door to his bedroom, make them wider for him,” Johnson said. “And we have to redo the door to the bathroom and make the tub and shower handicapped-accessible so that he won’t have to be carried so much. I also want to put a cover over the porch so he can sit outside.”
He added that the family has received significant help from several sources, including Carl “Tater” Martin, who helped build a ramp to the home’s porch; Robin Swift at Swift Lumber, which supplied the wood for the ramp; and several others.
“A lot of people have volunteered,” Johnson said. “We want to thank the community for all the help. But we still have a long way to go. We need tin, four-by-four posts, a lot of things. We could use money or help, whatever anybody can do.”
Anyone who wants to help the family may call Johnson at 359-0101 or Barbara Cooper, Atchison’s aunt, at 623-2259. Cooper also has set up a GoFundMe account to raise money for the project.
The teen, who can now feel a “tingling in his legs,” said he would rely on his spiritual faith and the support of numerous friends and family members who regularly visit to keep his spirits high.
Johnson said he would encourage the youngster to make lemonade out of the lemons he has been handed.
“I think he would be a good spokesman for young kids, let them know that this is not a road they want to go down,” he said. “He can let them know that they need to get an education. There’s just so many ways he could help other kids stay away from things that could lead to something like this happening to somebody else.”