"How can we help?"
After many of you read my column about Jalil Frazier, the Philadelphia man who was shot and paralyzed while protecting a group of kids during a robbery, that's all you wanted to know. And on behalf of Frazier and his family, I can't thank you enough.
Readers were touched by the story of the young father, hailed in January's news headlines as a hero and Good Samaritan before fading into the background just as he was coming to terms with his new reality.
Of all the things Frazier's story should highlight is the need for a better system — a better funded system — to help victims of gun violence, who are often left to navigate their lives with little more than the kindness of strangers.
And thank you, strangers, for your overwhelming support. Someone on Twitter dubbed the supporters #TeamJalil, and man, did they come through.
A GoFundMe page started by Frazier's aunt exceeded its $15,000 goal in a few days and people are still donating, aware that the financial burdens are only mounting for Frazier and his fiancé, Tamira Brown. Both worked before the shooting.
Brown has lost count of the emails they've received. People offered money, which the couple are incredibly grateful for, but they also offered other things that were just as valuable.
A law student and a single working mom both told Brown they couldn't help financially, but offered their time.
"…If you need help with cooking, cleaning, or watching your kids," the student wrote.
"When y'all get married, I could decorate for you, pro bono," wrote the single mom, who also reminded Brown to make time for herself.
Another email came from a Temple University Hospital nurse who saw the column and recognized the couple from all the time they spent there.
"Your dedication and love did not go unnoticed," she wrote.
Support has come from people who live just a few blocks away to people who live states away.
A reader from North Carolina, a paraplegic who said diet and exercise have helped him regain movement and sensation, wrote:
"I don't have much to offer, but I'd love to send some resistance bands and workouts to help work on strength to gain some independence! I remember what it was like before I got my lift at home to get me downstairs to my room. It's discouraging. It also gives you time to get lost in your head, which in the beginning is a dark space."
The couple are going through the emails as quickly and as best they can between doctors' appointments, for Frazier and their youngest son who has Hirschsprung's disease, a chronic bowel condition
Of all the offers, the ones the couple seem most excited about are those to help make the rowhouse they rent more wheelchair accessible and provide Frazier the independence he's desperate for. A few people have offered help with a ramp, though they are uncertain how to proceed since they live in a rental. Someone else said they could help with a stair lift so that Frazier could at least get upstairs to the couple's bedroom. Someone else mentioned having an extra shower chair they'd be willing to donate.
Brown is holding her breath that these blessings will come through, and who can blame her? She heard a lot of promises before they ended up back home, mostly on their own.
The day I went to meet the couple, Brown told me it was a bad day. Frazier couldn't get out of bed or out of his own head, filled with worry and fear about how he would provide for his family, how he'd become self-reliant again in a home without even a ramp for him to get beyond his front porch.
The couple are still reeling from the aftermath of the shooting, but when I talked to Brown this week, there seemed to be a lightness to her voice that wasn't there the first time we spoke.