From tragedy to transcendence amid the mountain gorillas

    Anne Thomas

    Anne Thomas

    After she was left paralyzed by a car accident at 18, Anne Thomas promised herself that she would never be a burden to anybody.

    That was in 1976. The tragic accident that put Thomas in a wheelchair would eventually lead her on an adventure in Rwanda and a life-changing encounter with mountain gorillas.

    She recalled this critical moment in her life recently during a First Person Arts StorySlam at World Cafe Live, where the theme of the night was “animal.”

    Determined not to follow her doctor’s suggestion that she check in to a nursing home following her accident, Thomas was eager for the chance to travel to Africa for her work — despite her realization that Rwanda’s jungle isn’t exactly “wheelchair accessible.”

    During her trip, a moment she shared with one gorilla in particular would change her perspective on her disability and how she defined her own limitations.

    Thomas will be telling another story Thursday night at the First Person Arts Festival’s Grand Slam. The festival runs through Nov. 15.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal