Rabat - On the evening of Friday January 10th, 2014, Moroccan born Adil Boutahli arrived at the Pennsauken 7-11 for his usual graveyard shift, unaware of the startling events that awaited him.
Rabat – On the evening of Friday January 10th, 2014, Moroccan born Adil Boutahli arrived at the Pennsauken 7-11 for his usual graveyard shift, unaware of the startling events that awaited him.
Just as Boutahli’s midnight shift began, three masked men entered the store and demanded he hand over cartons of cigarettes and all of the cash in the register. When he did not oblige quickly, one of the masked men knocked him in the head with a pistol, sending him to the floor while continuing to pressure him for money.
“When it’s a robbery, they need [the register to open] right away but the first time, it didn’t open,” said Boutahli about the attack.
While trying to regain his balance after collapsing, Boutahli finally opened the register.
Boutahli was then shot four times– twice in the abdomen and once in each arm– by the fleeing criminals, marking the moment when his life would change forever.
The following days of Boutahli’s life were spent in a coma at Cooper Hospital in Camden, and the following months in a rehab facility in Philadelphia.
“Life is hard, in general. Something can always happen; accidents, gunshots…” said Boutahli, sitting in the wheelchair that he hopes to abandon soon.
Adapting to life in a wheelchair, chronic back pain, and only being able to walk one mile at a time without an aid are only some of the many drastic changes that the attack brought to Boutahli’s life.
“My mind is always changing. I used to drive. I used to play soccer. If I want to go somewhere, I can’t go by myself. I don’t sleep good, I have stress sometimes,” he says.
Boutahli says that the hardest struggle has been having to give up his athletic lifestyle and career. Before the attack, he was the goalkeeper in a club soccer league in North Jersey and looking for work and an education.
The public was enraged at the lack of security in the 7-11 and devastated to hear about the attack. Boutahli was popular amongst the community, with one resident referring to him as his “younger brother.”
Boutahli says that instead of focusing on his long, painful recovery, he would like the media to highlight the people who have helped him get through it, starting with the customer that found him sprawled on the floor of the 7-11.
“The client, I do not know right now but I would like to meet him in the future,” comments Boutahli. “I’m appreciative of everybody. Thank God, and the medical staff, and police and firemen. I want to help people. I can like everybody, and I can respect everybody. But I can’t help anybody right now. Right now I have to care for myself. I’m thinking all the time about what happened,” he says.
The ex-goalie’s latest medical consultations have discussed the possibility of reconstructive surgery that would remove his colostomy bag, allowing him to use the bathroom regularly.
Through his long struggle and recovery, Boutahli has not lost all hope. He is determined to eventually return to the world of sports by coaching soccer in Morocco.
Boutahli draws inspiration from the moment in which he awoke from his coma. “I started to open my eyes,” he said. “At that moment, a new life began. I feel born again.”