Corey Edwards wasn’t even in the same room.
The teenager was at home in Detroit. A friend was over, and Corey had got out his father’s gun. It was loaded. This is foreshadowing.
The friend was looking at it, not intending to do anything. A moment later, there was a hole in the wall and Corey was lying on the floor.
This all happened in 1993, almost three decades ago – but not quite. That time frame would later become important to Corey. In that moment though, very little mattered. Lying on the floor, then lying in an ambulance, then lying in a hospital bed while frantic work happened around him, he felt pain in places, but also nothing.
“And I was a paraplegic,” he says. “Just like that.”
If this is the moment when you reckon it would be good to start feeling sorry for Corey Edwards, hold up on that. Today, Corey tells the story matter-of-factly, quickly, with the polished nature of somebody who’s been telling it for a long time. A writer, businessman, husband and father, he’s not one for pity.
But he does believe his story can help others, and he enjoys telling it. He’s also a man who sets goals. One of those goals was to tell the story of his life, starting from that day in his parents’ house when it changed, before the 30th anniversary of it. Years ago, he made a goal. March 31, 2023 will be that 30th anniversary.
“That day, my book is already going to be out, and it is going to be a bestseller.”
Check the bestseller lists in a couple months. His memoir, which was published earlier this year, is called 29 Years Later.
His parents almost never went out, but on the night he was shot, they were playing bingo at his high school. They had already lost several children in a car accident before Corey was born; now they raced to the hospital again. His father was a former military man – 20 years in the Air Force – who worked hard to keep the temptations and troubles of the wider world out of their Detroit home. Now his son lay in a hospital bed, broken.
He stayed in the hospital for three months. Doctors told him he would never walk again.
“I was so broken down,” he says. “I was ready to give up on life.”
But almost immediately, he started getting lessons in perspective. He shared his hospital room with two other patients, both quadriplegics. One was another young guy who’d also been shot. The other was a man in his 50s who’d been in a car accident. Neither could feed themselves or turn over. Both considered Corey, with the use of his upper body, to be the lucky one.
They’d tell him that, sitting in the room all day when he wasn’t at rehabilitation. You can put a spoon in your mouth. Lucky guy.
“I had 50 percent of my body,” Corey says. “And they had nothing but their mind.”
Three months after the accident, he turned 18. A social worker came to visit.
“This is a great day for you,” the social worker told him. “You’re eligible to get Social Security, and you can get food stamps.”
He took the food stamps, but he also started looking around for colleges. This worried his parents, he says. They were preparing for a life of taking care of their paraplegic son. But as grateful as he was for them, he knew he wasn’t going to depend on his parents for the rest of their lives. He had to leave home.
“I needed that independence,” he says. “I needed to be on my own.”
He was still in a wheelchair when he arrived at Eastern Michigan University.
“First guy there in class, I don’t care what time of day it was,” he says. “I was the first one into class.” He graduated in three-and-a-half years.
During this time, a friend wanted to start a landscaping company and asked if he wanted in. Corey needed the money but didn’t know how this was going to work. “How the hell am I going to cut grass?” he asked his friend.
But he shopped around and found a standing mower he could prop himself up on. By the time he finished college, he and his buddy were averaging 70 to 80 lawns a week.
From there, the work at rehabilitation continued, and the work started. He began a career in real estate, working for Rocket Mortgage, eventually rising up to being one of the top 100 mortgage bankers in the US. He was moving around and feeling more confident. Hard work was paying off. He bought a boat; he invested in racehorses. Check this. For a kid from Detroit with a bullet lodged in his spine, he wasn’t doing too badly, thanks very much.
Then came the 2008 financial crash. Corey lost everything. He lost his house. He lost the boat. He admits he went to a dark place. For the second time in his life, he felt like he had lost everything.
His best friend from Eastern Michigan lived in Florida. Corey had never lived outside of Michigan. Now, he decided, that would change.
In the water, you float. It’s possible to relax, to move easily. To not work. Not working doesn’t come easy to Corey, but a feeling of freedom does.
“I’m just a water guy,” he says.
In Florida, he fell back in love with work. Now he was on the front lines, selling homes for Keller Williams. He began investing. Within a few years, he was in the top 50 in the world in sales for Keller Williams.
It was also in Florida that he met his wife. Today, the father of four gets around – still with crutches, but on his own. And between his business, his increasingly busy public speaking schedule, kids sports practices and the everyday time crunch of family, he needs to be mobile.
It can be strange to think how about the teenage kid lying on a Detroit hospital bed. The one who wanted to give up. That’s what telling his story is all about – the idea that somewhere right now, there’s somebody else on a similar hospital bed. Corey understands if they want to give up. But he wants to tell them that even with adversity, there is another way.
He still doesn’t use his legs the way most people do, but he has nothing to say about that.
“I have zero complaints about my life,” he says. “It has given me everything that I have.”