Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Drunken driving victim Andrew Hall brings prom message to Hudson High


He signed in at the office at 7:08 a.m. Tuesday, nearly an hour before his talk. Andrew Hall only slept three hours the night before. This was the first time he'd been back to Hudson High School since he graduated in 2008. Back then, he could walk.

Born at 2 pounds, 2 ounces and diagnosed with cerebral palsy, Hall wasn't expected to live, much less walk. But he did. It took him 15 years — surgeries, leg braces, pain, refusing to listen to doctors telling him what he couldn't do, hating to be pitied.

But here, he not only walked but joined the weight-lifting team. He was adored by teachers, who thought of him as a son.

They crumbled when they heard of the April 20, 2009, accident in which Hall was hit by a drunken driver. The collision ripped off his left leg, crushed his pelvis, shattered his arm.

"Why him?" said Brian Bennett, a digital design teacher who still displays a Hudson High T-shirt Hall autographed as a student in his classroom. "He's the nicest person I've ever met."

Shannon Casel, who runs the school's learning lab, drove to Bayfront Medical Center with another teacher after they heard about Hall.

He was unconscious. He'd already been through so much — fighting to walk, absent parents, raised by his grandparents and his adopted family. He had every excuse to be bitter but he wasn't. He was sunny, clever, kind. He wanted to be a nurse.

Casel held his hand.

"You are going to live through this," she said. He spent seven months in the hospital before coming to live with his adoptive father in Clearwater.

Casel was the one Hall called Monday night and then again Tuesday morning at 6, as he was on his way to the school.

Prom is next week and, to dissuade the teens from drinking and driving, the staff asked Hall, 20, to come back and tell his story. He was glad to do it. Even as a child, Hall knew his purpose in life would be great — although he doesn't like to say it, because he thinks it sounds egotistical. But this is his mission now: To fight drunken driving.

"It's his calling," Casel said. "He believes everything happens for a reason and this is his reason right now — to help and inspire others."

He spent weeks mulling over what he was going to tell the kids. Pictures, he thought. I need pictures. He put together a slide show of photos of himself in the hospital. He practiced what he was going to say. When Mike Pounds — one of the paramedics who saved Hall's life — came to pick him up at 5:15 a.m., Hall was dressed and ready.

Hall has more surgeries to endure before doctors can try to fit him with a prosthetic leg. He will walk again. He will not accept anything less.

"I'm not most people," he said. He believes the adversity in his life prepared him to continue fighting. The act of overcoming is all he knows. Many people ask why he's not angry.

"I get no satisfaction from being bitter," he said. "It's not going to do me any good."

The talk began at 8 a.m. The bleachers were full. In his wheelchair, Hall rolled to the center of the gym floor.

"I love him. He's so cool," a senior girl whispered. She thinks of him when she doesn't want to get out of bed to go to school. After all he's been through, he still doesn't stop. So she gets up.

The room hushed when Hall picked up the microphone. He spoke of his birth, of fighting for years to walk and having it taken away in seconds.

"That is what drunk driving did to me," he said.

Hall struggled to not break in the hospital. He couldn't eat and was depressed. He had no privacy. He hurt.

"Everything in life is a choice," he said. "It destroys lives and it destroyed mine.

"Yes, I will overcome it — but what's done is done."

The teens gave him a standing ovation and crowded around him, hugging him, thanking him, asking to get their pictures taken with him. That was the best part, Hall said.

He plans to continue speaking, spreading his message. He's not just thinking local.

He's thinking global.

"Why not?" he said.

Erin Sullivan can be reached at or (727) 869-6229.

Fast facts

Operation Transportation

Family and friends of Andrew Hall are trying to raise money to buy him a van modified for his wheelchair. Right now, Hall has to be lifted by someone to be placed inside a car. If you want to help, make a deposit at any SunTrust Bank to the Andrew S. Hall Charitable Fund or mail a check with a note that it is for that fund to SunTrust Bank, Mail Teller, P.O. Box 27572, Richmond, VA 23261-7572.

On the Web

For previous coverage of Andrew Hall's accident and fight to heal, please see

Drunken driving victim Andrew Hall brings prom message to Hudson High 04/27/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 27, 2010 8:54pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Jordan Spieth wins British Open


    SOUTHPORT, England — Someday, perhaps soon, there will be a plaque at Royal Birkdale for Jordan Spieth, much like the one off the 16th hole that celebrates Arnold Palmer and the 6-iron he slashed out of the rough in 1961 to usher in a new era of golf.

    Jordan Spieth, left, stands on a mound to look at his ball on the 13th hole after hitting onto the driving range.
  2. Fennelly: Brutal weekend could be start of something worse for Rays

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Well, that was lovely.

    Brad Boxberger suffers his second loss in the three-game series, this time by allowing back-to-back homers in the eighth inning when called on to protect a 5-3 lead. “Just bad pitches,” he says.
  3. Wesley Chapel hockey camp impresses youth players, parents

    Lightning Strikes

    WESLEY CHAPEL — As a 17-year-old Triple-A hockey player, MacCallum Brown regularly plays against elite talent. As a Palm Harbor resident, he often has to travel to face that talent.

  4. Rays claim not to be panicking after third straight brutal loss to Rangers

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — There was no "here we go again" moment in the dugout as Rougned Odor's two-run homer in the eighth inning arced across Tropicana Field and toward the rightfield seats, even though when it landed, the score was tied and another late-inning Rays lead was blown.

    Rays third baseman Evan Longoria heads back to the dugout after fouling out in the ninth inning with the potential tying run on first.
  5. White House signals acceptance of Russia sanctions bill


    WASHINGTON — The White House indicated Sunday that President Donald Trump would accept new legislation imposing sanctions on Russia and curtailing his authority to lift them on his own, a striking turnaround after a broad revolt in Congress by lawmakers of both parties who distrusted his friendly approach to …

    President Donald Trump’s ability to lift sanctions against Russia would be blocked.