Jonathan Walton opened his eyes for the first time on Wednesday, five days after an incoming G train struck him in the head, leaving him with brain damage and fighting for his life.
His family and friends, 10 of whom drove up from Charlotte, N.C. and spend most of their day in Kings County Hospital by his side, cling to every little bit of progress he makes. They said that every day he seemed more responsive, recently he started turning his head when he heard his name and squeezing the hands of loved ones.
"There's always hope," said Ebony Pledger, his niece. "You can never give up on that — he does things that give you the idea there is progress."
Walton's catastrophic fall from a 27-year-old looking to make it in New York City to incommunicado and on the verge of death happened in a matter of minutes.
"He called me at 11, said 'I love y'all, happy New Year,'" Pledger recalled. "He said he was going out like everybody else."
And he drank like everybody else.
But Walton apparently drank too much, and passed out on the platform of the Classon Avenue stop with his head dangling over the tracks at around 1:30 a.m.
"He had passed out — it was New Year's," said his sister, Crystal Walton. "The train couldn't stop."
Now Walton has tubes snaking into his mouth held aloft by a neck brace. Another tube worms its way into his skull.
One of Walton's close friends from North Carolina, Candace Jefferson, said he had moved to Brooklyn in 2008 "for a fresh start" and to try and fulfill his dream of being a hair stylist — something he'd practiced on his sisters and nieces since he was a kid.
He was in the process of getting a cosmetology license, and in the meantime paid the bills working at an Abercrombie & Fitch.
His family said he was living near the Classon Avenue station, but they weren't sure where, exactly.
One thing they did know: he had begun to miss North Carolina in the months before the life-changing accident.
"He wanted to save some money and move back to Charlotte," said Jefferson. "He was homesick."