“I could stay at home, all sad, because I lost my sight, but it would be useless at all, you understand?
“I still want to go pro, I still want to be able to do it,” says the 19-year-old as he prepares to perform a trick at a San Francisco skatepark.
For Zion, it is now very important to share his enthusiasm for this sport with others. “I want to start skate activities for the students after class. I feel like I wouldn’t have really considered that if I still had my sight,” he told AFP.
The young man’s life took a drastic turn outside a bar last year when a drunken man started shooting Zion and his friends, who were returning home.
He was hit twice. A bullet pulverized his right eye, the second hit his left orbit, piercing the eyeball.
Zion has been shrouded in darkness ever since: “It’s like a purple night sky… without stars.”
The teenager remained hospitalized for a long time and ended up being fitted with an ocular prosthesis. Rather than a classic “glass eye”, he opted for the logo of his favorite skate brand, Spitfire, a flame forming a sneering face, which he inserts or removes at will.
It didn’t take long for Zion to return to the skatepark, where he’s been practicing since he was twelve years old.
“When I jumped on my board, I felt like I had something that connected me to my life before,” he explains.
“It’s like I have one less weight on my shoulders.”
– “Not afraid of falling” –
At the park, skaters perform acrobatics on wooden ramps, turning in the air to land with agility, or slide dangerously along metal curbs.
Falls and shocks are numerous even in the best conditions, but the exercise is even more difficult when you cannot see the obstacles, or even the board under your feet.
“When attempting a new obstacle, I often assess the contours with my cane, or ask a friend what they see, how it’s set up, what I should watch out for,” Zion says.
“And then I start.”
His seven years of experience in skateboarding serve him well and the young athlete appeals above all to his muscle memory.
“If I want to land a trick, I know I can do it by going for it and not being afraid to fall,” he continues.
This does not prevent falls of course. “All the time!” laughs the teenager, “but that’s the way it is”.
“I fall more now than I used to, but it’s not skate related. If I try to slide off a ledge and it doesn’t go through, I pick up my board and start walking. I bump into the ledge and I fall,” he says.
His skater buddies gladly act as guides.
Dexter Lotz, Zion’s friend of six years, believes he has become an even better person since going blind. “He’s always been positive, but now he’s super positive,” he said.
“It’s like he got a second chance and he really needs to do something about it…He wants to share that with everyone around him.”
Zion shows no signs of resentment toward her attacker, who awaits trial. It is against the scourge of firearms, which kill tens of thousands of people each year in the United States, that he is angry.
“Personally, I think we don’t need firearms,” he says.
“I feel like we’d be a much better society if we learned jujitsu or some other fighting style and settled it that way, dropping the guns,” he insists.
Zion wants to have children one day soon and hopes to share her experience with them.
But he will be careful never to present things to them in a negative light.
“I really appreciate everything I have. The way you take things is 90% of what you have,” Zion thinks.
“And I think I’m really lucky to be where I am,” he says.