Deb Moy is supposed to be dead.

And yet there she is, queueing up with the rest of the Elon School of Law’s Class of 2016 in a sea of be-tassled black velvet graduation tams to get her hard-won juris doctorate. She pushes on her crutches to mount the stage, then crosses it smoothly, almost like she’s swimming — her prosthetic legs and the carbon-fiber forearm crutches moving the rest of her along.

Deb Moy is not supposed to be walking. And yet there she is.

At center stage she pauses — Deb cannot resist a moment like this — pivots to face the crowd, braces her crutches on the carpet and pulls a quick little hip-shaking shimmy. Then she resumes the glide to pick up her sheepskin to raucous applause.

Here is where she breaks from the procession of newly-minted lawyers crossing the stage. She tucks her diploma under her arm and slips behind the dais, backtracks to stage left as the cheering still echoes in the high rafters of the alumni gymnasium.

Seated alone in the back, I feel an involuntary shiver run through my shoulders and up my neck.

Because Deb Moy is supposed to be dead.

In 2008, a beating and a fire was supposed to put an end to Deborah Ann Moy. Now, eight years later, she’s finished law school and astounded the doctors who said she’d never walk again. And she refused to drive a minivan.


She makes it back into alphabetical order for the final procession, and as she passes by flashes me a smile that brings me back into the moment.

I find her afterwards, pinned at the base of the wheelchair ramp as the gymnasium empties into the lobby. She’s sweltering under her graduation gown, craning her neck to find her people so she can get to the car and, eventually, the afterparty at Scrambled.

“That’s one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen,” I tell her. She shoots me a skeptical look.

“I don’t think it’s all that amazing,” she says.

“It is,” I say. And we share a quiet moment in the crowd.

“What do you think it all means?” I ask her.

“I don’t know what it all means,” she says. “The doors just keep opening and I keep going through them.



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