Cornerstone University student tells all, explains mysteries behind accident
by Rachel Hunter
GRAND RAPIDS – Cornerstone University freshman Jacob Loomis never fully considered the potentially dangerous consequences of “hanging out” on Calvary Church’s roof – that is until he fell off of it injuring himself.
And it also wasn’t until after Loomis was lying in a hospital bed with an injured back that he realized just how harmful spreading falsehoods could be as well.
It was the evening of Saturday, March 31. Loomis, a vocal performance major, had just finished performing the lead role of Captain Von Trapp in the CU Theatre Department’s production of “The Sound of Music.” Loomis decided to spend some time with his friends. They headed over to Calvary Church, next door to the campus on the Beltline, and began to climb on the church roof. It did not occur to Loomis that this “simple” feat was a safety hazard. He and his friends had done it numerous times before, he said.
“It’s fun to just sit up there,” he said. “I didn’t feel like it wasn’t safe.”
The potentially dangerous nature of being on the structure never occurred to him – that is until he lost his balance and fell 10 feet toward the hard ground below. Despite his efforts to land on his back, he landed straight on his buttocks. The impact left him in excruciating pain. He said he felt and heard something crushing, kind of like “the crushing of a pop can” sound.
It wasn’t until later that night at the hospital that he learned that he damaged 30 percent of his L1 vertebra.
Pumped with adrenaline, Loomis made his way back onto campus, trying to make it back to his dorm room in Quincer Hall before the already intense pain became worse. He said he made it close to the commuter parking lot, where the annual mud bowl competition is held, before he crumpled onto the ground in agony. He doesn’t remember clearly what happened after that, but knows he was “found” later by some campus community members, including one who was on the roof with him that night, who brought him back to his room.
With the adrenaline still raging, Loomis thought the pain would “just go away” if he got some rest and used some over-the-counter pain relievers. So, when he talked with the on-staff campus safety officer about what had happened to him, he decided to fabricate the night’s events. He said he did that in order to protect himself and his friends, not wanting to get them in trouble.
But, his lie went further, with more far-reaching consequences than he thought possible at the time.
“I didn’t realize that down the road The Grand Rapids Press, Fox News, WOOD TV 8 would want to know about it,” he said. “I was just trying to find an easy way to solve the problem without making things worse for myself. I lied and am trying right now to set the record straight.”
In a spirit of transparency this week, Loomis has the taken the initiative to apologize to everyone on campus he knows he hurt by the falsehoods. As he’s approached different people on campus to apologize, Loomis said he’s grown fonder of CU’s community, saying that at each turn, he’s been met with nothing but forgiveness and grace.
“It’s just been one big God thing,” he said. “There’s nothing that God does that isn’t for my good and His glory. Regardless of how bad this hurts, how many people I am going to apologize to, or how badly I made others feel, it eventually is not about me. It’s about what he wants to teach me through this.”
He discovered that at least part of his lesson was that he needed to tell the truth and wants to be clear on a few matters.
Unlike his initial account of events, Loomis said the accident didn’t happen on a midnight run to Meijer, although he had gone there earlier that day. Nor was a bicycle involved. And, as far as he knows, there were no weather-related conditions that contributed to his fall.
In general, Richard Honholt, the director of Campus Safety, reminds students to be vigilant about their surroundings, abiding by the rules of common respect and common sense in their springtime activities.
“Sometimes these things are meant to be fun and pleasurable things … but they end up being not such a happy event,” he said.
Loomis moved back onto campus Monday, April 6, wearing a hard, full-body brace – something he said was a pain, but knows his situation could have been much worse. He could have had to have surgery. But, because of “God’s goodness” he didn’t injure more of his vertebrae, spinal cord or the nerves surrounding the area.
Loomis said he’ll have to adjust to living “normally” again. He said he has strict instructions not to twist, bend or lift anything weighing more than 10 pounds. But, he said he’s not going to let that stop him from being part of the campus community – or participating in campus activities. Although he can’t take on his former role, Loomis said he still wants to and has volunteered to help out in “any possible way” to make the Sound of Music a success.
“They’ve talked about me staying up in the booth, letting me run lights or something,” he said. “The show took up a lot of my time and it would be a shame to let that go to waste.”
Associate Professor of Theatre Jennifer Hunter, the director of the show, had to cancel the Sunday, April 1, matinee performance because of Loomis’ physical inability to participate.