Oklahoma State Senate
Communications Division
State Capitol
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105

For Immediate Release: May 2, 2011

Intern Hailey Mathis with Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman.
Intern Hailey Mathis with Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman.

Senate Calendar Clerk Karen Fleet gives intern Hailey Mathis legislation for delivery to the House.
Senate Calendar Clerk Karen Fleet gives intern Hailey Mathis legislation for delivery to the House.

May 3rd survivor learning about government through Senate internship; hopes to lobby for disabled

“The only real limits are the ones you put on yourself.” Those are inspirational words, but even more so when you learn about the person behind them. Hailey Mathis is studying political science and history at the University of Oklahoma and balances her class schedule with an internship at the Oklahoma State Senate. She’s also a survivor of the May 3rd, 1999 tornado. One of the most destructive and powerful storms ever seen, Hailey, just 13 at the time, was home alone when the tornado destroyed her Bridge Creek home and changed her life forever.

“It was completely dark, and I remember hearing people screaming and yelling and hearing the helicopters flying over,” Hailey recalled. “I just remember saying please God, don’t let me be paralyzed.”

Trapped in the rubble waiting to be rescued, Hailey said she already knew what doctors would later confirm—she was now a quadriplegic. She admits it was hard at first, but she remained focused on learning to do things on her own. Hailey also said that her friends who’d all known her long before she became paralyzed never treated her differently afterwards, so she really didn’t ever think about herself as being disabled.

An advanced placement (AP) government class in high school sparked Hailey’s interest in politics. As a political science student, she applied online for an internship with the State Senate. She said the experience has been very interesting, but she isn’t interested in seeking public office herself.

“I think maybe something more behind the scenes,” Hailey said. “I think I’d really be interested in being a lobbyist on behalf of people with disabilities.”

Hailey has already has some experience along those lines. She’s a member of the Oklahoma Rehabilitation Council, a statewide advocacy organization and recently participated in People with Disabilities Awareness Day at the State Capitol.

Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman was Mayor of Sapulpa 12 years ago. The same tornado that injured Hailey touched down later that evening in his community. He called Hailey’s story remarkable.

“I was just amazed with the progress she’s made and the story that she told. We appreciate Hailey being up here,” Bingman said. “Certainly we can learn from the lessons of life that she’s gone through. What a great example to have her up here at the Oklahoma State Senate.”

For more information contact:
Sen. Bingman: (405) 521-5605

Inon: Horizontal Blue Band

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