Forgiving Heart Escaped Paralysis
By Jewel Graham
The 700 Club
Missy Jenkins and her twin sister were normal high school teenagers. Missy played soccer and was in the marching band. With her bright and bubbly personality, she didn’t know a stranger. Missy and her sister hurriedly raced out of the house the Monday morning after Thanksgiving break, Dec. 1, 1997, in hopes to make the daily 7:00 a.m. prayer circle in the lobby of their high school. They yelled “bye” to Mom out the door and rode to school with some older friends who lived down the street.
What they didn’t know was that Michael Carneal had stolen guns out of the garage shed from a friends’ house over the holiday weekend. He had passed them off as an art project in his bookbag on the way to school that morning and hung out in the corner of the lobby with his bookbag. When the prayer circled dispersed, the bullets started to fly. This was the first school shooting in our nation’s history and many people were impacted. Three girls died and five more were injured; none as seriously as Missy.
"We got to prayer circle, which was something we did every single morning," Missy said. "Nothing seemed out of the ordinary at all. We prayed and we said 'Amen.' As soon as we had enough time to say that, I walked to the middle of the lobby; and that’s when he started shooting."
December 1st, 1997, 14-year-old Michael Carneal opened fire on a lobby full of fellow classmates at Heath High School in Paducah, Kentucky. Missy Jenkins found herself in the crossfire.
"I didn’t even feel where I got shot," Missy recalled. "It was just really weird. It was like my entire body went numb. My hearing went and then my whole body just felt like it floated down to the ground."
When the bullets stopped, Missy’s algebra teacher prayed with her until the ambulance arrived. Missy’s twin sister, who instinctively shielded her sister from further injury, left to notify their parents.
"I didn’t know whether she was alive or how bad she was shot," Missy’s mother said. "I was just praying every minute because I didn’t know until I got into that ER and into that little room where they had her. And she was sitting up there in the bed and she said, 'Momma, I can’t feel my stomach. I think I’m paralyzed.'"
Doctors confirmed Missy’s suspicions. The bullet had gone through her lung and into her spinal cord, leaving her paralyzed from the chest down. Missy had only become a Christian the year before. Even in her newfound faith, Missy felt peace.
"I think that He had already told me, 'I think you’re going to be able to handle this. You’re going to live. You’re going to be fine.' That’s pretty much how I felt," Missy said. "I even was trying to tell my family this was going on because they were crying and I was trying to tell them, 'It’s OK. I’m fine. I’m alive. It’s OK.' I think at that point, I realized I was still there, that I had more to do in my life and it wasn’t over."
Almost five months of grueling rehabilitation taught Missy to function independently on a daily basis. She returned to Heath High School to complete her education.
"I think one thing that kept me going during that whole time was there were so many people pulling for me," Missy said. "One day, I got 600 letters and 30 packages from people all over the world. And this was like an everyday thing there for a while. I just thought, 'if I have that many people praying for me and behind me, then why do I need to stop? I never really felt like I had too many obstacles. I guess I just had enough people around me that it never made me feel like I couldn’t do anything."
Missy even visited the man who shot her at the Kentucky state reformatory. Michael will remain behind bars for life.
"Well, it was something that I had always contemplated on doing because Michael was somebody I considered a friend at one time," Missy said. "I always have tons and tons of kids asking me questions that I can only give assumptions for. I just felt like I needed to ask him these questions so people would know; and for him to at least give back on the situation that he’d created. You know, maybe put something positive in it. If I could do that for him, then I wanted to be able to. At the end of the conversation, he said, 'I don’t know if I've ever told you this, but I'm sorry for what I've done.' There were two roads I could have taken: there was a road to be angry about the whole situation and to feel negative about the situation and feel that nothing will get any better or the other road that I'm doing now is to be happy and to live my life and to have a family. And I thank God so much for showing me the right road and to remind me that I can still do anything that I want to, even though I'm in a wheelchair - that my life isn’t over. I have a purpose in my life and I consider myself very blessed to be able to know that!"
Missy’s successes include college, marriage and now motherhood! With the help of a brace, Missy stood while she said her vows to her college sweetheart, Josh Smith. The two became proud parents in September of 2007.
"Being a mom is awesome! It's wonderful," Missy said. "I thought that, (I tell everybody this) I thought learning how to use a wheelchair - that was a challenge. Now, learning how to take care of a 16-month-old and you’re in a wheel chair is an even bigger challenge."
In addition to being a busy wife and mother, Missy is now a published author, counselor, and motivational speaker. Missy said there is a reason for her amazing accomplishments.
"I think the only explanation I can give is that God gave me the ability to forgive," Missy said. "You don’t know what you are capable of until you are put in that position. The whole time after the teacher prayed for me, I felt completely comforted and knew I was going to be OK. That’s the only thing I can give an explanation for, was that God was with me the whole time."
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