Teen pianist overcomes shooting injury to perform at high school graduation

Days before his high school graduation, the gifted pianist was injured in an apparent random shooting.

News 12 Staff

Aug 13, 2021, 2:59 AM

Updated 1,052 days ago

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As students across the Hudson Valley prepare to go off to college for the first time, it's safe to say no one will have a story quite like Tommy Guest.
Days before his high school graduation, the gifted pianist was shot in an apparent random shooting in Mount Vernon.
His life was saved in part by his faith, determination, and a little device we all have in our pockets.
For as long as he can remember, music has always lived inside Guest. Music is how the 18-year-old self-taught pianist best communicates, and it's the 1964 hit song "House of the Rising Sun" -- a sad tune about a life of hard knocks --- that he's been playing since he was 6 years old that is now helping the young man share his testimony: A story of sudden tragedy, struggle and triumph.
"I always loved that song," he says. "And it was the first song I had taught myself."
"I believe that I was been given a second chance to do what I want, to continue and to stay focused," He adds.
As Guest prepares to go off to go off college and start a new chapter of his life, he is still coming to terms with the plot twist in the last chapter, one that almost took his life.
On June 13, Guest and his cousin Jared went to party in the Bronx and stopped off to pick up snacks on the way home. But what started out so innocent, quickly devolved turned into a terrifying nightmare.
"A guy comes out and starts shooting at us," Guest recalls. "I don't know who it was. I don't understand why, I don't know, but that's what happened."
Guest says the shooting that was likely a case of mistaken identity was captured on surveillance footage.
"I don't understand the reasoning. I never did anything to anyone," Guest says.
Guest was shot in the backside.
"That hurt a lot and it burned," he recalls.
He ran away from the scene as fast as he could until he couldn't run anymore.
"I started falling out. I couldn't breathe. Yeah, I was bleeding out. I fell into the puddle of blood that was at my aunt's doorstep," Guest says.
His injury was serious, but it could've been potentially fatal had it not been for his cellphone, an unlikely shield in his back pocket.
"My phone ended up basically saving my life because the bullet hit my phone, and my phone changed the trajectory. The doctor say that the bullet was expected to go upwards into my abdomen area," Guest explains.
Instead, the bullet came out his leg.
"I was in so much pain in the hospital. I was screaming for help," he says.
Guest's road to recovery has been hard and painful: Two surgeries, three stays in the hospital and the possibility he'd never be the same again.
He never gave up. Guest couldn't let his family down and he also knew he was just 11 days away from graduation day at the Denzel Washington School of Performing Arts in Mount Vernon, where it would be the final time he'd get to play his song.
"I had to make it to my graduation," Guest says.
So he practiced in the hospital, even as he was relearning to walk. And the day before graduation, Guest was released from the hospital so he could walk across the stage, play his song and share his story.
There was not a dry eye in the house.
Months after that fateful shooting, Guest is still on the mend, but he insists he's not a victim.
"I like to call myself a survivor, basically. I survived and a lot of people don't," he says.
And now he's sharing his story in hopes that it will help others know.
"You have the ability to try to keep going. All you can do is persevere through, be determined and you can really do anything," Guests says and adds just don't give up and find your passion because it could just be the one thing that gives you a new lease on life.
Guest will be starting college at Stony Brook University on Long Island this weekend, where he'll be majoring in mechanical engineering.
Mount Vernon police have not made any arrests in the shooting.


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