The Drywall Twins

If ever there was an experiment that illustrates the power inside your head it would have to be the tragic story of the drywall twins.

More than 40 years ago, two twins were waiting for the school bus at the end of the long gravel driveway, out of sight from the house, hundreds of yards from any neighbors.

Like any 10-year-olds, they were full of energy and curiosity and so they snuck into the garage their parents were building near the road. Inside, leaning against the stud walls was a stack of drywall, heavy sheets waiting for the builders to attach.

For fun, they jumped up and around and in between the drywall, waiting for the bus to arrive. One of them accidentally pushed against the base of drywall, upsetting its balance. The whole stack ponderously tipped and fell over onto the children, pinning them onto the hard concrete floor into a sitting position.

They heard the bus come. They shouted for all they were worth, but no one could hear them from inside the garage. They squirmed and wiggled but were hopelessly pinned, backed against the wall, legs trapped under the drywall.

It took all day to discover them. The school thought the parents had them, the parents thought the school had them. By the time they were found, their legs had been deprived of blood flow and both children were immediately hospitalized. The rehabilitation would need to be immediate and extremely painful. However, forcing the limbs to move against such pain would be necessary if they could ever hope to walk again.

The boy didn’t. It was too painful. He went into a wheel chair and stayed there to this day. The sister did. Despite the terrible pain, she forced herself to move, shuffle, limp and then eventually walk.

You would never design such a cruel experiment using twins as subject matter—seeing whether children of the same age and similar DNA would behave differently under similar environments based solely on their own determination. That’s why a fluke tragedy like this is so important and why its lesson is so costly: Much of Doing is Deciding.