The worst day of your life can begin like any other and something as routine as taking the subway home from lunch can change your life forever. While that’s one lesson gleaned from a disabled Upper East Side woman’s appearance on a national talk show this week, it’s not the most important one to take away from Rebecca Lamorte. As the 31-year-old disability justice advocate told ABC’s Tamron Hall, you have to become your own biggest advocate in the face of adversity.
“All of a sudden when the [subway] doors opened, I was being shoved by someone get off at their stop. I fell in the gap between the train and the platform,” said Lamorte, explaining how she became disabled in a video presented before her interview with Tamron Hall that aired Monday morning.
“My left leg was crushed. I was in shock. The subway doors kept hitting my chest. Strangers had to help wedge me out,” she continued, painting a disturbing picture of the trauma she endured nearly a decade ago, still fresh in her mind.
Keyed up from the adrenaline in the moment, Lamorte, 22 years old at the time, went home ready to move on, but life had other plans for her— a permanent disability from a degenerative nerve syndrome in her crushed left leg, which now requires she use a cane to assist her while walking.
“My leg was so swollen. It was cold to the touch. I couldn’t walk. I rushed to the emergency room,” said Lamorte.
“I was scared that I may lose part of my leg. Just like that I went from dancing on tables to being on bedrest.”
Rebecca’s experience would ultimately be transformational, but getting there would take time.
“[The first two years] were very difficult for me and my lowest point in life,” she explained to Upper East Site.
“I put on a lot of weight and didn’t want to interact with people, even my family, because of how frustrated and upset I was at my body, how people treated me and that life wasn’t going to be the same again.”
“It took a lot of personal work to get to the place I am today mentally and physically with my mobility,” the Upper East Sider told us.
Part of Rebecca’s journey was finding a new normal.
“What’s amazing about you, first of all, you said you’re in pain chronically, but you walked out here with a smile and this purpose,” host Tamron Hall told Lamorte.
“It completely changed my life and I went from being 22 and not seeing a flight of stairs and thinking twice about it— taking my body for granted like so many people do— and the next day I couldn’t walk,” Ms. Lamorte told Hall and the national audience watching at home.
“I started living the reality that so many disabled people face and the discrimination, the isolation, the segregation. If I was experiencing that, what was happening to other people? ” the disability justice activist and one-time City Council candidate asked rhetorically.
“How are others being treated that don’t have a platform? That don’t have the privilege that I do, honestly, as a white woman, to speak out and fight back? It means fighting not just myself, but for everyone.”
Rebecca’s advice to anyone who finds themselves a low place, “feel those feelings, but let that drive you for something else. Let that push you to change what your reality is, change other people’s realities or find a new normal for yourself.”
“For me, that normal was running for office to fight for change. It’s fighting for change in big and small ways still today as a disability advocate and getting comfortable owning that space.”
“You are who you are. No matter what happens to you, no matter what experience you have,” Lamorte explained, “you can find your space and you can be an advocate for yourself and others.”