In March, 2001, 27-year-old Phoenix police officer, Jason Schecterle, was sitting in his parked patrol car when it was rammed by a taxi going over 100 miles an hour. His car exploded into a fireball and Jason sustained third degree burns over 40% of his body. He was not expected to make it through the night. But he did, and for 21/2 months he lay in a drug-induced coma wrapped like a mummy, and was never expected to talk, walk, or see again.

Amazingly, he survived, and was discharged from the hospital 6 months earlier than anyone believed he would. Jason was faced with many years of reconstructive surgery, but although he was severely disfigured, he left the hospital with his sense of humor intact. When his wife helped him put his sweater over his bald head, he said to her “careful now don’t mess up my hair”,

The first time I saw him was the night he carried the Olympic torch through Phoenix, Jan. 2002, on its way to the Winter Games in Salt Lake City. The organizing committees told Jason he could do it in a wheelchair; it might be easier for him to hold up the 3 1/2 pound butane torch, but Jason said he wanted to try and walk with it. I stood curbside as he ran by, his wife Suzie running around him with a camcorder. They were both laughing, the crowd cheered and I was moved to tears.

Jason retired from the police force; founded Beyond the Flames, a non-profit to help those who experience unimaginable adversity, triumph over their tragedy; and fathered his third child, chuckling when he said “not everything got burned.

I met him personally for the first time last week when he spoke at a gathering. Jason talked about what happened to him over the last 12 years, and showed us pictures of what he looked like before the fiery inferno. He described what it was like when he saw himself for the first time; his scarred face without eyelids, ears or nose, and decided that he could live with it. Jason said he knew his wife and children loved him, and reminded him of his soul, not just his disfigurement.

When he finished speaking I introduced myself, and told him about the first time I saw him jogging down Camelback Road holding the Olympic flame. I told him how much he inspired me. Jason thanked me, and said he thought he was the luckiest man in the world and couldn’t have imagined his life being so full.

Happy Valentines Day Relatives! Go out for a walk, run, or have dinner with your sweetie and carry the torch of your love.

I say this for All My Reltions, Mi Takuye Oyacin

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