"We've been told that the anger will come, but knowing Trav, I don't think he'll ever be angry at the way it happened. I think he'll be angry that it was over so soon."
The BU team soldiers on. The players hang Travis's orange practice jersey at every workout and carry his number 24 game jersey to the bench both at home and on the road. His nameplate went up over his locker a week after the accident, when those of the other freshmen were installed. Parker visits the hospital often, telling Travis how things are going, threatening to put him through a quick Russian circuit if he doesn't cooperate with the doctors. "But as we both know," Parker says, "he'd do anything to do 40 Russian circuits now."
The doctors have told the Roy family that Travis will be in rehabilitation four to six months before he can 20 home. Tobi's wedding is on April 27, and that's the goal everyone is shooting for. From the outset, the courage and dignity the Roys have displayed in the face of adversity have touched a nerve that resonates far beyond their circle of friends and the hockey fraternity. Thousands of people, from President Clinton on down, have written letters and sent prayers. Two funds for Travis have been established, one in Maine and another in Massachusetts. Bottle drives, benefit games and auctions are planned, and a phone-a-thon has already raised $452,000 in cash and $150,000 in services, a good start toward the estimated $1.5 million in medical bills that Travis may incur in his lifetime.
"I thought people who knew Travis would react this way," Brenda says. "He is a ray of sunshine, a very special kid. But what's blown us away is how this has touched the hearts of so many people who didn't know him. Sports are so much a part of our culture, and every parent knows, but for the grace of God, it could be my kid. How fragile we are. And the setting, too, was perfect: the way he was right there on the edge of achieving his goal."
There is no bitterness. Lee sees that Travis is only 20, and he believes that a medical breakthrough may be just around the corner for Travis and the other 10,000 spinal cord injury victims who annually suffer paralysis in the U.S. "The hand's been dealt," says Lee. "You just have to go with it. I hope the next hand will be a better one. The quality of Travis's life will be improved immeasurably if he can just move a finger. This was a true accident. There's no one to blame. I'd be very surprised if Travis wallowed in self-pity for any length of time. I think he'll rise to the occasion, as he's done so many times in the past."
Milbury has already talked to the Roys about having Travis scout for the Islanders via satellite dish when he starts feeling better. Pratt can picture Travis, always a terrific communicator, as a broadcaster. Those who know him best believe, even in this darkest hour, that something positive will come of this tragedy.
"Travis's grandmother said he's going to be a terrific messenger," says Brenda. "If there's a god, he wants a messenger who can deliver. We may not know what that message is yet, but Travis may have a job to carry out that he didn't choose. I tried to tell him that: 'You achieved your first goal. You know how hard it was. Now you've got another goal ahead.' "