SAN ANTONIO – A San Antonio man is not letting his lack of sight stop him from serving others in his community through lawn and building projects.
Roland Gomez, 57, has always loved outside jobs.
“I don’t like being inside of a building, you know,” Gomez said. “I’d rather do outside work. Growing up, it was wonderful. I had good parents. My mom kept me independent. I knew how to iron and cook and take care of myself. My dad was a, ‘Get out there and work’ kind of man. That is where I learned to do my own lawn services and carpentry work.”
Gomez had a job working for a cable company as well. Sadly, May 12, 1991, he lost 100% of his sight during a drive-by shooting. He was just 28.
“You could hear them coming all the way from down street,” Gomez said. “Boom! Boom! I didn’t have any beef with anybody, so I didn’t think anything of it. I went outside to get the mail from the mailbox and this truck was driving by kind of slowly. A guy came up out of the bed of the truck and started shooting. I got hit in the head. The blast knocked out my eye sockets.”
He said he was at least six feet away from the barrel of the shotgun.
“According to the neurologist, from the time I spent in the coma and what they had to do to get the metal fragments out of my head, I am pretty lucky all it did was just knock out my eye sockets. No brain damage. Man, I must have had many angels around me because as you can see, it didn’t do anything bad but this little scar on my forehead,” he joked about his looks.
Gomez said the transition from sight to darkness wasn’t that difficult.
“Maybe it is because of my belief in God,” Gomez said. “From one day, I was out of a coma and operation. Everything has been black ever since. It wasn’t hard. I had family and friends that didn’t leave me behind. My independent living has always been good. No trouble. I have mobility out here and friends that picked me up if I need to go somewhere. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do miss my sight. I do miss it, but thanks to God, I have been doing just fine without it.”
Gomez believes many good things came out of him being shot and losing his sight.
“God has played a big role in all of this,” Gomez said. “When I was sighted, I was nowhere near close to God. I heard about him and thought I knew about him, but I didn’t know anything. From my sighted world to this world, this world is a whole lot better than the sighted world because I was up to no good. I started doing drugs. I started drinking. I was getting with the wrong crowds. This shooting has drawn me closer to God.”
Gomez calls the shooting a miracle, not just for himself, but for others in his neighborhood at that time.
“In 1991, there were so many gangs here and there,” Gomez said. “There was a gang of 17 members here in my neighborhood. The day I got shot, all these 17 gang members took off their jackets and caps and everything, they split and went their own ways. I see them now and ask how they are doing, and they all have good jobs and a lot of them are dads. I think sometimes, God did this to change the neighborhood itself. He doesn’t inflict bad on anybody. I think what he did with me, the outcome of what happened to me, it saved all of those little kids that were trying to build a gang. They changed instantly when they saw what happened to me. This is my testimony. They saw that and realized it could have been one of them and it could have been worse. I am glad God used me to change them.”
After the shooting and when Gomez was well enough to start working again, he said someone recommended he apply for a job at the San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind.
“I said, ‘No! I am not going to be stuck in no damn ocean out there in a light house!’ I didn’t know what they were talking about,” he laughed. “Then, I found out it was a workplace for disabled people, not just the blind. I went there to check it out and they hired me and I was working there for 10 years.”
Now retired, Gomez still continues his lawn services for others.
“When I meet people, they observe me,” Gomez said. “They are very curious to see what sight I have. I get around really good and when they realize that I don’t have any sight, they are amazed of all the stuff they see coming out of me. Everyone in the neighborhood all know me. There are a very few houses here that I haven’t offered my services for. Whether it is changing or putting up a chain-linked fence. They are good people and appreciate what I do.”
Gomez said he does risky things sometimes, which makes people raise an eyebrow even more.
“I do some crazy stuff,” he laughed. “I have been on top of people’s houses, on roofs, cutting down tree limbs, getting myself back down. I use a chainsaw. I do it all. I can’t read a ruler or measuring tape, but I get other things I find around and use those for measurement. For instance, my walking cane. A construction company would be amazed if they gave me a chance.”
Gomez said he hopes his story encourages everyone, blind or not, to never make excuses.
“There are people who got all of their full body senses out there asking for money or a handout,” Gomez said. “Me, I prefer to work. You just got to keep going, you know. You can’t let any obstacles get in your way or stop you from doing what you need to do. I am blind, but I won’t let it stop me in anyway.”