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Kypost.com (Cincinnati, Ohio) interviewOct. 7, 2008
Reported by: Shannon Kettler
Web produced by: Jessica Noll
The survivor of one of the country's first school shootings shares her story with students in Northern Kentucky.
Missy Jenkins received a warm welcome as she arrived at Mary Queen of Heaven School in Erlanger school to speak with students about the fatal school shooting at her high school in Paducah.
"The first thing I thought was this sounds like firecrackers," said Jenkins of the shooting.
It was back in December 1997.
She and her classmates were in a prayer circle at their Paducah high school when the shots started.
Police say freshman Michael Carneal opened fire killing three students and injuring five others.
"I was shot through the left shoulder and it hit my lung and spinal cord and came out the right side of my back. I don't know if I said this before but I didn't see him with the gun so whenever this happened I didn't know what was going on," said Jenkins.
She would spend the next five months in the hospital recovering after being paralyzed from the chest down.
The shooting victim would go on to graduate high school and from college. She is now married with a 1-year-old son.
"I could choose to be angry about the whole thing or I could choose to be happy. I looked at like I was getting a second chance out of life and I wanted to have everything that I could if this hadn't happened to me," said Jenkins.
In 2007, the 26-year-old met face to face with Michael Carneal in at the Kentucky State Prison in LaGrange.
She believes bullying played a role in the shooting.
Jenkins told the students it's important to listen, and to tell an adult if something is wrong.
"I chose to forgive him because I knew that the anger is not going to change anything or make things better and just because I'm forgiving him doesn't mean I'm relieving him. I'm relieving me so that I can move on with my life," she said
Jenkins wrote a book with journalist William Croyle about surviving the tragedy called, "I Choose to be Happy."
She said her book provides many lessons including forgiveness.
Jenkins will be signing copies of her book from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, at Barnes and Noble in Florence.