Posted on July 16, 2014 at 11:10 PM
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A shooting at a high school in Paducah left a 15-year-old girl paralyzed from the chest down.
Seventeen years later, she stood in front of a crowd and walked across a stage, doing what doctors told her she would never do again.
Missy Jenkins Smith spoke at the Galt House Wednesday night. She was in Louisville for the Kentucky Association of School Administrators conference.
She emphasized the importance of the people who were there for her immediately after she was shot, caring for her wound, encouraging her to hold on. According to Smith, they saved her life.
Very few people have seen Smith walk in the last 17 years. Her steps are slow and measured. But, each one is a miracle, able to bring a room of a thousand people to their own feet.
With her husband by her side, Smith made her way to a wheelchair on stage at the conference. She began to share her story with school leaders from across Kentucky.
“December 1st, 1997 is a day that changed my life forever,” she started.
She told them about the morning she showed up early at school to join a prayer circle.
"That’s when a 14-year-old boy pulled a .22 out of his backpack and started shooting at us,” she recalled.
Michael Carneal killed three girls and hurt five other students that morning at Heath High School.
“The first thing I saw was a girl get shot in the head,” Missy told the crowd.
On that horrible day, Missy said her teachers, her sister, her friends, and classmates all became first responders.
“Another first responder that came to me was my math teach, Mrs. Beckman. Mrs. Beckman knelt down beside me and she started to pray. And at that point, that’s when I really started questioning whether I was going to live or I was going to die,” she said.
Doctors told Missy she’d never walk again. She chose to try anyway, never giving up, always putting one foot in front of the other.
After the shooting, Missy went on to get her degree in Social Work and she travels the country talking to people about her experience and helping students in need. She’s also written a book called, ‘I Choose to be Happy.’