Sept. 10--It's been almost a year since Montgomery Police Cpl. David Brown's life was changed forever, yet he has no memory of that particular day.
His wife, Angie, however, remembers it vividly.
"I just remember that being the worst day I think I've ever had," she said.
David Brown received multiple injuries, including head trauma that affected his brain, when he was involved in two motor vehicle accidents in a matter of hours on Sept. 11 of last year. The date sticks out for Angie Brown because she remembers she and her husband discussing television programs commemorating the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorists attacks.
She said she also vividly remembers David Brown telling her "this won't be a long one, I'll be back in a little while," as he prepared to serve as a motorcycle escort in a funeral procession that morning. She recalls acknowledging his comment because the couple was preparing to watch the University of Alabama football game later that afternoon.
What David Brown wasn't prepared for was for one of the members of the funeral procession to pull out unexpectedly, causing him to collide with the vehicle and subsequently being thrown from his motorcycle. While being transported to Baptist Medical Center South, the ambulance he was riding in tipped over.
"Being a policeman's wife all those years, you know that if the police come to pick you up, something's happened -- you know it's bad," Angie Brown said. "I knew that day when police showed up at the house to pick me and my daughters up that it was bad. I didn't know how bad yet, but it was bad."
Brown suffered broken bones, fractures and head trauma on the day of the accident and went on to undergo multiple surgeries during the two months he was in the hospital, most significantly the amputation of his right leg above the knee and his left arm above the elbow.
In November, he was moved to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta for speech and physical rehabilitation and stayed there until he returned to his Prattville home in February. Brown said he is especially thankful to the center for all they did for him.
"I owe a lot to them because when I was in there I didn't realize how bad of shape I was in, but I was in some bad shape," he said.
Now, after being back at home for seven months, Brown is slowly recovering and adjusting to his new life. He has prosthetics for his arm and leg, but is having to learn how to use them.
"That's a big part, learning how to walk again," said Brown, who attends rehab twice a week. "Having somebody try to tell you how to walk? It gets kind of hard. It's a big workout."
Angie Brown agrees that it's been a slow process. While both wish it would happen faster, they appreciate the progress Brown has made.
"I think as much as we want him to hurry up and get to walking, I have to sit and think 'Look where he's come from a year ago,'" she said. "Even since February, it's just a huge difference in how much he has gotten better in just that short amount of time."
During David Brown's time in the hospital, support poured out from the community in the form of Facebook groups and multiple fundraisers. The Browns said they still have boxes of cards and letters, some even containing checks from complete strangers.
"If there's anything good to come out of this, it's that it has made us realize how much people do care and there are still good people out there," Angie Brown said.
David Brown said people still come up to him in public and ask about his recovery and it "really cheers him up." The thoughts and well wishes he received during his hospital stay also played a factor in his recovery.
"Prayers are what helped me out the most," he said. "A lot of times, that's all that got me through was prayer. Every little thing helps."
The Browns also are grateful to the various law enforcement personnel throughout the River Region who have helped them since the day of the accident. Support has ranged from officers who have dropped by just to check on the family, to firefighters who helped get the Browns' house ready for his return by widening doorframes and adding a concrete path for the wheelchair.
"I probably couldn't have made it through those first months without them," Angie Brown said. "They weren't just his coworkers, they were his friends. And a lot of them became my friends."
Though he can't remember details from the day of the accident, Brown remains forever grateful to those who helped him.
"While the ambulance is trying to leave, it flips over -- it's just part of it," David Brown said. "And that was thrown on all these guys with no notice and they were able to shake it off and handle what they needed to do to get me to safety, and that's been a big plus."
As the family continues to adjust to their new life, they aim to stay optimistic about the future, taking it one day at a time.
Brown joked about how he knows when someone is near the living room, where he often sits, which gives him the perfect opportunity to ask them to bring him something to drink from the kitchen.
With Brown now retired from the Montgomery Police Department, he is able to spend more time with his family as he recovers and also enjoy activities such as fishing and hunting, though they come with some "extra effort."
Through it all, he remains grateful to have his wife by his side.
"She has to take me to rehab twice a week -- it's a lot to do for one person and she does it all herself," he said, adding she never complains. "I greatly appreciate all of it."