Hardison, who ran a burgeoning tire business in Senatobia, Mississippi, had his face horrifically burned on Sept. 5, 2001, when the then-27-year-old and other volunteer firemen responded to a house blaze. Hardison went into the home to look for a woman whose husband mistakenly believed was still inside when a ceiling collapsed on him, setting his face on fire.
"His face was smoking and flesh was melting off," fireman Bricky Cole told New York. "It was all char."
In the aftermath, Hardison underwent 71 surgeries over the course of a dozen years, and suffered continued pain that led to him developing an addiction to prescription medication as well as decreased vision that was a result of him having no eyelids, New York noted. Hardison's marriage fell apart, and despite restarting his tire business several years after he was injured, he ended up declaring bankruptcy and losing his home.
"I kept trying not to fail, but I couldn't beat it," Hardison told the magazine. "I felt like a failure."
"People don't understand how hard it is just to face the day," he said. "And it doesn't end. It's every day."