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"I Choose to be Happy" is a most magnificent story of a girl that was in the wrong place at the wrong time and has suffered the consequences ever since. Missy Jenkins was fifteen-years old, a happy-go-lucky student in Heath High School in Paducah, Kentucky. Missy was like most other students at that age thinking they were invincible, nothing could happen to them. Their daily routine was just that, a routine they did automatically. UNTIL December 1, 1997 when a fourteen-year old fellow student, Michael Carneal, known by most all the students in the school, came to school with a bundle of guns with which he had planned to shoot as many as he could. There were many students doing their normal thing for the first thing in the morning which was forming a ring of prayer just inside the school.
When Michael Carneal opened up with his first gun shooting at random, students started running down hallways except for the ones that were hit by bullets and a few that came to their assistance. Strangely, after the first round of shots, Carneal placed his gun down and was subdued. The carnage in the school was limited to the entrance area where no one knew who was hurt or how badly the injuries were. Missy was one of the eight students that had been shot. She survived but with a wound that would paralyze her from the chest down for the rest of her life. Three were outright killed or died on the way to the hospital. Five others, including Missy, were injured.
Missy's story tells of her strong faith, her strength of mind, and the terrific family she had that were with her every day even after she was able to do some things on her own. She always had a strong religious background but this shooting brought out the best in her as she turned to God even more than ever. The many months of rehabilitation after her initial hospitalization was only accomplished by her strong faith and willingness to live as good a life as possible. She was not a quitter.
Missy tells the rest of her life as she goes through very tough rehabilitation in several hospitals and rehab centers, always with one or more of her family at her side, most times staying overnight in her room when possible. Missy, because of her deep religious convictions, forgave Michael Carneal. This mindset action showed those surrounding and supporting her just what a great person Missy was. Missy has to learn how to do every normal function that a healthy person takes for granted. Her life was very hard but she endured and was determined that her life was now meant to be to help others who might be thinking of shooting someone, to help the thoughts of those that could be victims, and even teaching handicapped persons how to act and think despite their disability. She was, and still is a glowing young woman, now married with a young child, and leading a difficult life, but in her mind, it is not hard. She is alive and can live, teach, assist, aid, and try to stop the actions of another possible shooter by talking good and proper words to help them.
This brave young woman has a story to tell and she tells it very well. I am sure you will, as did I, shook my head many times through the books questioning how Missy and her family could endure what she went through. Ask yourself if you could forgive someone that had changed your life so completely? I know I could probably forgive, but could never forget the person that made my life so different. Thanks Missy for your story.
Reader review by Cy Hilterman of book supplied by author and publisher
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