ALMOST a year to the day after senior Lins Barwick was injured in an off-campus armed robbery, I sat in the spacious living room of Farrell Hall waiting to meet him for the first time. I had seen his freshman year photo and had an idea of what he looked like. But as I watched young man after young man traverse the sunlit floor, I was unsure what to expect.
After all, he had suffered a life-threatening gunshot wound to his abdomen that damaged several vital organs. The bullet that ripped through his belly had lodged near his spine, threatening his ability to walk again.
Would someone need to hold the door? Would he be more comfortable sitting on a couch or in a chair? Would he be limping? Would he even be walking? So many times I had heard people say, “He has a long road ahead.”
Then, through a door held by no one, walked a tall, blond young man, unassisted. Clad in khaki shorts and a T-shirt, he greeted me with a sonorous voice and casually plopped into a chair. He could have been one of a hundred 21-year-olds fresh out of a summer school class. Had I not known what he had been through, I surely never would have guessed.
“If you take life one step at a time, it makes it a whole lot easier,” Lins said as we began our conversation. “That’s kind of the whole mindset I had throughout the entire experience.”
THE “EXPERIENCE” BEGAN in the wee hours of Saturday, June 11, 2016. Lins and friends had been socializing at his house, just minutes from campus. He offered to walk some female friends home and was returning to his house on the other side of Polo Road when a car drove up alongside him. He vaguely remembers a voice demanding his wallet, then a loud noise. “I don’t remember actually being shot, which is fantastic,” he said. “Your mind does great things.”
He does remember stumbling, vomiting and realizing something was extremely wrong. “I was like, number one, I need to call for help. I couldn’t find my phone, for whatever reason.” Growing weaker by the moment, Lins saw a nearby house and told himself he was going to knock on the door; he couldn’t move. His memory of what happened next is fuzzy, Lins said, but after what seemed like forever but was actually just a few minutes, a vehicle stopped. It turned out to be an Uber car occupied by one of his summer school roommates and Kappa Alpha fraternity brothers, senior Troy Waddell.
When Troy exited the car he was shocked to see that the injured person had a familiar face. While the Uber driver called 911, Troy stayed by Lins’ side. Police from the University and the City of Winston-Salem arrived within minutes, followed quickly by an ambulance and EMTs. Lins was soon on his way to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
By the time Troy arrived at the emergency room he had texted his KA brothers; news was traveling fast via social media. The ER waiting area was filling up with friends and fellow students, along with Wake Forest professional staff there to offer emotional and spiritual support. “It was something where you don’t realize how many people are touched by an event like this,” said Troy. “Lins is someone who seemingly everyone knows. He is someone who affects and is connected to a” lot of people.”
Unaware of the crowd already gathering to support him, Lins was being wheeled to the operating room when he told doctors he needed to call his mother. They asked if he knew her number, and he did. “The doctor pulled out his phone and dialed my mom’s number. She picked up, and he told her who he was and that her son had suffered ‘a serious injury.’ Then he handed me the phone and I was like, ‘Mom, I just got shot. You should probably come to Winston.’
In the Wake Forest family album, the Barwicks of North Carolina represent a distinguished legacy of Demon Deacons: three generations, two campuses, one fraternity (Kappa Alpha Order) and multiple diplomas.
Patriarch Plato Collins “P.C.” Barwick Jr. (’58, JD ’60, P ’83, GP ’18), Lins’ grandfather, lives in Kinston, about 90 miles from Wake Forest’s Old Campus, where he spent two years as a student before the College moved to Winston-Salem. He’s married to Nancy Coston Barwick (P ’83, GP ’18) and is a retired attorney with Wallace Morris Barwick Landis & Stroud.
P.C.’s son and Lins’ father, Plato Collins “Collins” Barwick III (’83, JD ’88, P ’18), is an attorney with Barwick Mediation and lives west of Kinston in Raleigh. Collins is married to Laurie Lomax Barwick (P ’18), venue manager for Henry Connor Bost House & Farm in Salisbury, North Carolina, and daughter of a Double Deac, the late Dr. Donald Henry Lomax (’48, MD ’51, GP ’18). Collins and Laurie have three sons: Plato Collins “Lins” Barwick IV, John-Henry Barwick and Smith Barwick.
Lins graduated from Raleigh’s Needham Broughton High School in 2014 and continued the family legacy by entering Wake’s freshman class that fall. In his three-page LinkedIn profile he describes himself as a psychology major minoring in neuroscience, using the skills he’s learned to “create strategic and adaptive solutions to problems that arise in organizations and the world.” That’s résumé-speak, he notes, for saying he enjoys challenges and is a worthy problem-solver.
Causes he cares about? Children, economic empowerment, education, environment, health, human rights, disaster and humanitarian relief and poverty alleviation. A certified EMT who plans to attend medical school, Lins has assisted Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center cancer patients in receiving financial and emotional support throughout treatment; he has been the alumni relations officer and Title IX liaison for Kappa Alpha; and he has raised more than $25,000 to provide care and treatment for Angel Komenda, an African orphan with cerebral palsy whom he befriended during a semester-abroad medical internship in Cape Coast, Ghana.
IN KINSTON ON THE MORNING OF THE INCIDENT, P.C. was in the bedroom when the doorbell rang. Nancy answered the door to find their son, Scott, Lins’ uncle. That’s when P.C., walking down the hallway, heard him say the words no family member wants to hear: “Lins has been shot.”
“It’s hard to imagine the thoughts that run through your mind,” said Lins’ grandfather, saying there was little more information to be had.
P.C. called the family’s minister at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, and he came over immediately to comfort them. As he was leaving, Father Michael asked if they’d like for him to post something on social media to inform other parishioners. “From the time he did that, it was just a feeling of concern from so many places,” said P.C. “It was really just a comforting thing.”
By that time Laurie was on her way to Winston-Salem while Collins remained in Swansboro, North Carolina, where the family had been vacationing, with their other two sons. On the harrowing four-and-a-half-hour drive she had plenty of time to think about an eerie coincidence: in her 20th summer, she suffered lacerated hips and feet after being hit by a motorboat. “That was the one thing I wanted to protect my children from — a traumatic experience,” said Laurie, who has undergone three hip replacements. “When this happened, I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ ”
When she finally arrived at the medical center Lins’ life was in the hands of a team led by another Wake Forest alumnus, Dr. J. Wayne Meredith (MD ’78). Chair of the Department of General Surgery and chief trauma surgeon, he was, the Barwicks learned, the person you wanted at the helm in a critical situation. Several of Lins’ friends were already in the waiting room, and they gave Laurie a hug. “It meant a lot to me to see his best buds.”
In the hours following the shooting Collins’ Kappa Alpha brother and Wake Forest School of Law classmate, McLain Wallace (’85, JD ’88), arrived on scene to offer support and facilitate communication between a distraught family and medical personnel. McLain, senior vice president and general counsel at the medical center, was checking phone messages during a round of golf when he heard a distressing voicemail. It was Collins, saying, “I’m sure you’ve heard Lins was shot.”
Stunned, McLain listened to the message again to make sure he heard it correctly. He immediately called Collins, who said Lins was in surgery to repair life-threatening damage to internal organs. A second operation, to remove the bullet from his back, would be likely.
McLain headed to the hospital and found Collins and Laurie, who were stressed and concerned yet guardedly optimistic. “Lins was very fortunate on a lot of levels — to be found where he was, within 15 minutes of a Level One trauma center, and to have the medical center’s lead trauma surgeon available,” said McLain.
Several days after the 7.5-hour emergency operation, Lins’ father was walking down a medical center hallway when a man wearing a physician’s coat came toward him. “Then it dawned on me it was him,” said Collins, who stopped Dr. Meredith to say he was the dad of the Wake Forest student. “He was the warmest, nicest guy and spent several minutes telling me everything they did,” Collins said. “I gave him the biggest hug.” The doctor responded warmly, saying that he lived for those and didn’t get enough of them.
SENIOR BRANDON SWEENEY, along with Troy Waddell, was Lins’ summer school roommate, awakened at 7 a.m. that June morning to a phone call from his brother, who asked how Lins was doing. “I immediately asked my brother what he meant. The only thought that came across my mind was whether my best friend was alive or not. My body felt numb,” he said.
Brandon threw on clothes and drove to the hospital, joining others already gathering to keep vigil. The mood was somber but people weren’t hanging their heads, he said. Quite the contrary. Even as Lins was in the operating room, his fraternity brothers began hatching a campaign to support the patient and his family.
Brandon and Troy both hail from the Boston area and were deeply affected by the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. They recalled the “Boston Strong” slogan that unified community during an emotional time. So out of a band of hurting KA brothers came the idea for a T-shirt with “Lins Strong” printed on the front. But what would they put on the back?
“I was designing the shirt and started to throw out adjectives that characterized Lins. Troy and I were struggling to find the perfect words to represent Lins and symbolize his fight and courage,” Brandon said. Another friend and senior, Niko Fischer, suggested the word “fortitude.”
“The word was perfect because Lins is short for Plato Collins Barwick IV,” said Brandon. “We customized the back of the shirt to say ‘IVtitude.’
The group sold T-shirts via a Lins Strong Foundation website; funds raised benefited Angel, the child with cerebral palsy whom Lins had befriended in Ghana. “It was something amazing to see and truly shows the unified community at Wake Forest,” Brandon said. “We all play a valuable role in the community and coming together as one reflects Wake Forest’s quintessential values as a University.” Lins, who didn’t know about the shirt until weeks later, said, “That was unbelievably awesome.”
WHILE MANY IN THE COMMUNITY opened their hearts to the Barwicks, Minta Aycock McNally (’74, P ’02, ’06) opened the doors to her home. As Wake Forest’s Associate Vice President and Executive Director of the Office of Family Engagement, Minta had interacted with Lins’ grandfather, P.C., at alumni and athletic events. She had met Laurie and Collins at a wedding.
During those first few days the parents were reluctant to leave their son’s side. Minta and her husband, Frank (’74, P ’02, ’06), offered their guest suite as a refuge for them to rest and refresh. Having a “place to call home” meant that Lins’ brothers could join their parents and the family would be together.
“It really honored us that they would accept that invitation because I do think that there are times when you feel so helpless that you don’t know what you can do to help someone,” Minta said. “I feel like if I were in need, the Wake Forest community would rally around me. It’s just what we do. I remember that President (Thomas) Hearn would describe Wake Forest as a national institution that speaks with a Southern accent and doesn’t apologize for it.” Caring and hospitality, she said, “It’s just who we are.”
Following a second surgery to remove the bullet pressing against his spine, Lins eventually left intensive care. The alumni office assembled a care package of Wake Forest T-shirts and other items and delivered it to his room, which was teeming with friends and classmates. “I think that it’s really one of the principles on which the community is built,” Minta said. “We’re blessed that it’s taken for granted here that when something like this happens, it’s not somebody else’s issue to deal with.”
While all Lins could do was lie in bed, his brothers, Smith and John-Henry, slept in chairs in his hospital room. KA fraternity brothers chipped in to purchase an Apple TV converter. “ ‘The Office’ became our lifeline,” said Collins, who watched back-to-back episodes with his sons each evening. “Whenever I see Steve Carell now it puts a smile on my face.”
As she watched Lins suffer, Laurie empathized with his pain. He could get through it, she told him, and he needed to believe he could. “He found comfort in me being able to relate to what he was experiencing.”
"I think that it's really one of the principles on which the community is built. We're blessed that it's taken for granted here that when something like this happens, it's not somebody else's issue to deal with." — Minta Aycock McNally ('74, P '02, '06)
AFTER LINS WAS DISCHARGED in late June, he returned home to Raleigh for months of recovery, punctuated by the occasional setback. “People would come by and check on me. My friends were always there, people brought us food,” he said. “I ate really well during that time.”
His mom, dad and brothers were always by his side. “It was such an ongoing thing that they were the ones there to see it all the way through. It was such a difficult process that I had to take literally one step at a time,” he said, and that included learning to walk again. Pressure from the bullet against his spine had damaged nerve connections in his right leg, which was temporarily paralyzed and weakened from lack of use.
When he returned to school that fall he was still undergoing physical therapy and not yet able to make long trips across campus. He overcame mobility challenges with help from KA brothers and other friends. “It was nice to have people around; they were always there,” Lins said. “It felt like I had missed out on a lot but once I got back to school nothing was different. It was all exactly the same as when I left. That’s how it always works.”
Academically speaking, he said, his first semester back was his best so far. He and his friends continue to try and bring something good out of his misfortune by using the incident as a “teachable moment,” encouraging student awareness, safety and self-care, both on and off campus.
WHILE LINS DREW TREMENDOUS STRENGTH family, friends and faith during his ordeal, he believes his experience in Africa is the reason he made it this far. Ghana was present-oriented, he said, almost a land where time stood still. “Over there, it’s not about showing up at 4:30; it’s about showing up when you have completed what needs to be done,” he said.
"Asking 'why?' is not part of the equation. It happened, and we're going to hope for the best." — P.C. Barwick Jr.
“What I learned from working in the hospital there was that I didn’t have the skills to provide people with medical care, so I asked, ‘What can I do to better the day of the patients? How am I going to do it without being affected by all the chaos around me?’ If you had a scale that would be like a 10 in terms of the hardest environment in which to remain emotionally stable and continue to benefit the people around you,” he said. “If I could do it there, then I could do it anywhere, and that’s what helped me when I got back.”
Suffering he witnessed in Ghana shaped Lins’ perspective on his own. He remembered a young boy who lived in the pediatric ward for two months after being bitten by an insect. “I’m like OK, my situation is terrible, but I am in my house with air conditioning, and I literally have the best doctors in the world. It just doesn’t compare.”
When a North Carolina law firm invited Lins to share his story, he talked about Ghana, getting shot — and how his friends raised money for Angel by selling “Lins Strong” T-shirts. “It was so uplifting, and not because he was my son,” Collins said, “but because we all get bogged down in life and forget we can make a difference. When he was at his lowest point, he said he was feeling well enough doing something for Angel.”
"It felt like I had missed out on a lot but once I got back to school nothing was different. It was all exactly the same as when I left. That's how it always works." — Lins Barwick
After missing a semester for his medical internship in Africa, and unable to attend summer school while recovering from his injuries, Lins has recouped lost academic ground and is on track to graduate in December. He plans to take a gap year and work in emergency services before entering medical school to study psychology and neuroscience. “It interests me, studying people,” he said. “People ask if I’m going into psychiatry. I think the answer is ‘No’ as of right now. I just do it because I think it’s interesting, and I think it prepares you well to deal with the world.”
He continues to live near campus, not far from the site of the incident. There was a time when he’d drive past and “offer some kind of respect to the spot.” But now he doesn’t think about what happened unless it’s in the context of how far he’s come: like when he ran for the first time after being wounded — last November — or making light of the many surgical scars hidden under his shirt. Fueled by positivity and perseverance, he doesn’t dwell on the fact that at this point no arrests have been made in the case. And he doesn’t ask, “Why me?”
Lins’ parents realized that the date he was rushed to the hospital was the same date Laurie’s father graduated from Wake Forest medical school 65 years earlier — June 11, 1951. It told them “Poppa Doc” was watching over his grandson. And Collins, overwhelmed by the patience of Lins’ friends who congregated in lobbies and hallways, marvels that there was always a presence. Laurie still tells people how much community support meant to the family. “We felt such a warm feeling about Wake,” she said.
I WAS CURIOUS AS TO THE ORIGIN of the Greek name “Plato” and learned it means “strong shoulders.” It seems fitting, then, that in their time of need three generations of “Platos” were embraced by a community of strong shoulders upon which to lean, weep and share a weighty burden.
Plato Collins Barwick Jr., Lins’ grandfather, told me, “Asking ‘why?’ is not part of the equation. It happened, and we’re going to hope for the best.”
Plato Collins Barwick III, Lins’ father, said, “There’s no question that his mental resolve and his ability to move on from this thing was exceptionally aided by everything that everybody at Wake did. It was huge to all of us.”
And Plato Collins Barwick IV said, “With a live-life-in-the-present kind of mindset I was able to get through it as easily as I could, and then put it behind me.”
His family and friends call it “IVtitude.”
Throughout the ordeal, Collins (Lins’ dad) connected with family and friends via Facebook.
A few of our blessings at this point: our FAITH, Our 3 children. My wife – Laurie has been a ROCK for our child!! The surgeon called in is one of if not THE top trauma surgeons in the country … his Kappa Alpha brotherhood, and his GUARDIAN angel – his grandfather – Laurie’s dad. He graduated from medical school 65 years ago on June 11th – the same exact day Lins was admitted here, and all of us know that “Poppa Doc” was watching over EVERY move the doctors were making on his grandson at his alma mater and had doctors available and waiting! And, very importantly, our extended family and friends.
Laurie brought me a cup of water tonight. Pretty simple task you think. She chose this cup for no reason … . Never grabbed it before. When she handed it to me she said “r you ok?” I said yes. Looking at it brought back 1979- 1983 and LOTS of support these past 7 weeks. We have had our hands full and have not been able to say thanks in a truly heartfelt way. Y’all have been BEYOND awesome (whether or not you r Demon Deacons) The coolest thing about this image 37 years later (I got this cup as a freshman at Wake Forest) is that my son’s WFU fraternity brothers have also WAAAAY stepped up for my son.
A Caring Bridge community website connected Lins, his family and friends during his recovery. These excerpts are from Lins’ Facebook post of June 20, 2016, which was shared online.
As I sit in my hospital bed on Day 8 of my stay, I am still completely and utterly overwhelmed (in a good way) by all of the support I have received from the people around me. On the worst of my days, last Wednesday through Friday, it was more than helpful to be able to rely on everyone’s kind words and wishes, while relieving my anxiety and tension through everyone’s prayers. When I learned of everyone lining the hallways of the hospital in support less than 24 hours after my surgery, I could feel the love in the air …
This has been one of the toughest situations, recoveries and tests of both my physical and emotional endurance, but I can and will make it through. I will emerge as a stronger individual that will have an even greater perspective on life following my trip to Ghana. Who would have thought going back to college would end up more dangerous than going halfway across the world to an African nation?
Anyway, the community of friends and family, and even those I don’t know, has been so helpful in my progression through my stay at the hospital. Shout out to Brandon Sweeney and Troy Waddell for their effort to raise money to aid with my medical bills … A thanks goes to Sam Carroll as well for outfitting my room with Apple TV which saved my life due to a diagnosis of boredom. My mom, my dad and my family in general have been through so much, and I owe them more than anything for being there with me, and for me, throughout my entire stay.
I will be in touch, and I will keep on rolling through this recovery. See you around.