The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Photo credit: Nick Shockey / nshockey.express@gmail.com
A letter from the editor
February 6, 2024

Standing tall

A student sits in his wheelchair with his son on his lap, and just for one second, wonders how things could have been if not for the night of July 20, 2007.

It was a hot July night when Derrick Saenz-Payne made the decision to leave his friend’s house after having a couple of drinks. Thinking he was OK to drive, he got in his car and headed home. One mile away from his exit, Saenz-Payne swerved for one second, and next thing he knew, he was in the other lane and BOOM!

You would think Saenz-Payne needed tons of drugs to numb his emotional pain after the accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down at age 23. Instead, he’s happier than most people who have the ability to do something as simple as use their legs to walk.

Life situations are most times thrown at people who can handle them, people who will take a negative situation and somehow turn it into a positive one in the long run. Strength. That’s what it takes. City College student Saenz-Payne has the gift of brightening up a room full of angry people. Just being around him makes one’s little problems in life almost seem insignificant.

Saenz-Payne can never walk again. He has to sit in his wheelchair and continue on with his life, going to school with a new handicap and raising his 6-year-old son, Julian. Even though having his son has given him the strength to go on and live a normal life, he says he still keeps his head high, and has a positive attitude everyday.

“I admire him so much,” says former classmate Jarreau Gilbert. “I don’t think I could ever have a positive outlook on life after having to struggle with something like Derrick has.”
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Even though Saenz-Payne, a history and communication major, can’t do some of the things a father does with his son, that never stops him from making sure Julian lives an incredible, happy life. One could say Julian saved his life, but Saenz-Payne’s attitude and strength has kept him sane throughout the years, as well.

“My son is my lifeline. He is the reason I wake up everyday,” says Saenz-Payne “I have the ability to put on a face for him in just one second because I need to lead by example. I can’t show the people I love how much this hurts me sometimes.”

Saenz-Payne’s younger brother, Josh, has always looked up to him. It was hard, Josh says, to adjust to Saenz-Payne’s new lifestyle, but once again, his positive attitude and outlook on life everyday helps Josh go through his own hardships as well.

“I ask my brother from time to time, ‘How do you do it?’ He helps me appreciate my life in a simplistic kind of way,” Josh says.

Although Saenz-Payne will never walk again, his inner strength allows him to stand taller than anyone, with his head up high.

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