Apr 28, 2009

PatricK: the man in the orange shirt

by Amanda Sullivan

 The iridescent orange caught her eye as she rapidly scanned the expansive crowd gathered in the Vines Center for Liberty University’s Wednesday convocation. As she peered through the herds of people, she realized the flash of color was a shirt worn by a man. She took her seat next to her hall mates, but the man’s shirt continued to draw her attention to the sign-language section throughout the service. The shirt’s expressive color, and its owner, has attracted the interest of more than one individual.

That brightly colored orange polo shirt is owned by Patrick Andrews. Because his bold statement takes place on a college campus, many individuals simply credit the creativity as a form of personality expression – an attempt to stand out in a crowd. However, Andrews’ shirt selection serves a greater purpose than boosting his ego. He wears the shirt as a reminder of something he almost lost – his life.

A life-changing moment

The date was March 24, 1994, a week after students had returned from spring break.

Andrews, then a 21-year-old freshman at Liberty, and two friends visited the Drowsy Poet, located at the bottom of Candler’s Mountain Road – a place many students still frequent.

The group of friends later decided an exploration was in order. The three friends piled into the car and started up the terrain of Candler’s Mountain Road. The road leads to the top of Liberty Mountain, where viewers can see most of the city.

As the students were on their way back to campus, struggling to be on time for the campus-wide hall meeting held on Thursday nights at 10 p.m., the car’s axle broke and sent the vehicle careening down the road. The vehicle had just passed Liberty Village when the break occurred, according to Andrews, who credits most of the information to outside sources because of his lack of memory concerning the event.

The accident reduced the car to a pile of scrap metal, and left the students with various injuries. Andrews, who was in the backseat of the car, was the only individual critically injured.

“Right now, we want to have a special prayer for a young man at Lynchburg General Hospital,” Falwell said from the pulpit in a tribute video following the accident. “Patrick Andrews is a ministerial student at Liberty, and he was involved in an auto accident a couple of days ago. He is in critical condition.”

Andrews was hospitalized and in a coma at Lynchburg General Hospital for six weeks. Because of the severity of his injuries, doctors told his mother to call the hospital every hour on her drive from Texas to make sure he was still alive.

Despite the hardships that Andrews faced after the accident, he made his way back to Liberty. Now, 15 years later, Patrick Andrews is still at Liberty University pursing a degree in communication studies via a full scholarship from the late Falwell.

The now 37-year-old student credits his recovery to Liberty, Falwell’s prayers and ultimately, God.

“Going back to Liberty was the only motivation I had to get through physical therapy, which was absolutely humiliating, and speech therapy, which was embarrassing.” Andrews said. “If it hadn’t been for Liberty, I’d still be in a wheelchair. I might still not be eating normal food. If it weren’t for Liberty, I’d be history – a castaway.”

After four years of rehabilitation, Andrews’ sister convinced him to return to Liberty, where he decided to attend Liberty Bible Institute (LBI). During his time at LBI, Andrews’ love for all things bright orange developed.

“I was given the shirt that I wear on Wednesdays to convocation in the LBI, which I started going to in January 1998,” Andrews said. “A box of clothes was brought into LBI for them to look though, and I found the shirt. I buttoned the top button to see if I could wear it to class, because back then guys had to wear ties to class.”

Andrews’ excitement over the shirt did not stem from a desire to be clothed in orange. In fact, his enthusiasm was because of the brightness and how well it stood out among other colors.

“I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I would love for Jerry Falwell (Sr.) to see me when he is up talking to the students – making them Champions for Christ,’” he said. “I so desperately wanted, while he was up there preaching to us, to look over to the left in the padded chairs and see a glowing orange like a beacon. I wanted him to look over and realize I am so appreciative and thankful to Jerry Falwell for giving me the chance to come back to Liberty University.”

Andrews officially returned to Liberty as a student in August 2001, after spending three years at LBI. He now takes one class, plus the King’s Players elective, every semester.

Andrews is sometimes reluctant to reveal his birth year, as he is older than most college students. However, his spunk and personality make him easy to relate to – he even has a Facebook page, where he proudly proclaims his likes, dislikes, quotes, political views, religious views and work experience. He is currently a lab attendant in the Visual Communication Arts (VCAR) department.

“I love having this job,” according to Andrews’ Facebook page. “It is truly a blessing from the Lord.”

Andrews’ love for people and life flows from his Web page to sports arenas, and allows him the opportunity to connect with a variety of individuals. He met Devin Olson in 2006 at a hockey game. Olson was a freshman, and the two instantly made a connection.

“Patrick has really become one of my best friends over the past few years,” Olson said. “He’s that type of person who’s just so optimistic, loud and cheerful that he can walk into a room that seems dead and pretty soon everyone’s smiling.”

In addition to Andrews’ naturally cheery disposition, he continues to use his own story to impact the lives around him.

“It’s just amazing to see how one split second can completely change someone’s life in such a radical way,” Olson said.

“I love seeing how Patrick doesn’t dwell on the pain and horrific aspect of the accident, but instead how much God has done for him and how far He’s brought Patrick since March 24, 1994. Jerry Falwell prayed that Patrick would recover so that he could go out and share his testimony with the world, and those prayers were answered far beyond what anyone could imagine.”

Andrews rarely passes up a chance to sit and chat with any willing individual, an activity many students enjoy taking part in.

“To anyone who hasn’t sat down and talked to him, Patrick may seem like that energetic social butterfly that you could never really get to know too well, but he’s also one of the best friends anyone at Liberty could ever have. Everyone should get to know Patrick beyond just knowing him as the guy who wears the blinding orange shirts,” Olson said.

For more information on Andrew’s accident and his life, visit youtube.com and search “A day in the life of Patrick Andrews” to watch the tribute video created by Olson.


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