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WH Native Completes 3,100 Mile Wheelchair Journey

Gabriel Cordell becomes first person to travel cross-country in a manual wheelchair.

Cordell rolls into West Hempstead Monday night, completing his 3,100 mile trip across the country.
Cordell rolls into West Hempstead Monday night, completing his 3,100 mile trip across the country.
West Hempstead native Gabriel Cordell made history Monday night, becoming the first person to travel across the country in a manual wheelchair.

A car accident in 1992 left Cordell, 42, paralyzed from the waist down. He left Santa Monica, Calif. in April, traveling 3,100 miles from the Pacific to the Atlantic in just 99 days.

"I want to bring inspiration to people around the world ... that people can do whatever they aspire to do," Cordell said.

Cordell was welcomed by a huge crowd of supporters in front of West Hempstead High School on Nassau Blvd. Monday night.

"We have touched a lot of people and seen amazing things," Cordell said to the crowd. "Thank you all for your support."

Cordell, who was born in Libya as Suheil Aghabi, migrated with his family to the United States in 1976, where they found their first home in West Hempstead. Cordell then attended Chestnut Elementary, West Hempstead Middle School and the High School, where he played junior varsity and varsity football, while studying karate for more than 11 years. 

He was on his way to his first professional audition in 1992 when a car ran a red light and crashed into the driver's side of his Jeep, flipping the vehicle and ejecting him six feet into the air into a telephone pole, crushing his back and his spinal cord.

While the accident made him a paraplegic, it did not stop him from pursuing his dream of being an actor. He has landed numerous roles on screen and on stage, and his journey will be subject of a feature length documentary called "Roll With Me: A Journey Across America."

"The people I owe the most gratitude toward are the seven people who gave to me their lives for three months to see this through," Cordell said. "I want to acknowledge each one."

Among those acknowledged were Lisa France, the director and producer of the documentary.

"I didn’t have one penny, just my will and my wheelchair," Cordell said. "She believed in me and dropped everything in her life to make his happen. I am indebted into her greatly and she is forever my second sister."

Crew members Angel Marckwordt, Derrick Gibbs, Joshua Streeter and Cordell's nephew, Christopher, were also among those acknowledged by Cordell. 

Cordell said he met Gibbs, a young adventurer, on an interstate in Arizona during the journey. After riding together for a couple hours, Cordell said he invited him to dinner at their camp where he became fast friends with the rest of the crew. He would end up joining the crew and travel the final 1,800 miles with them to New York.

Cordell finished by thanking his parents and family for their support. 

"This has been a really tough journey on my family," Cordell said. "But I can finally say that, mom and dad ... your son made history baby!"

For more information on the documentary "Roll With Me," visit RollWithMe.Org.

Related: WH Grad Rolling Across America in Wheelchair, Part I and Part II

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