Instagram posts where I promoted the brand you see below.
In June 2016, I woke up in a hospital bed in Florida Hospital Orlando. I had just survived one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history at the Pulse nightclub and was recovering from two massive gunshot wounds to my legs. I was in the worst pain I’d ever experienced in my entire life. The bullet that entered my right thigh shattered my femur, rendering me immobile. All I could do was lay there—thinking. Thinking about how I was able to escape the wrath of the terrorist who had entered the Pulse Nightclub on June 12, killing 49 people and injuring 53 others. One of the 53 people he shot was my best friend at the time, and one of the 49 people he killed was her cousin, Akyra Murray, who was just 18 years-old. We were on vacation and had decided to spend our first night out together at Pulse. We never imagined that what should have been a fun time together would take Akyra away and traumatize us forever. Lying there in my bed, I couldn’t help but feel guilty. I didn’t understand why my life had been spared while so many others were not. When I wasn’t crying, I blankly stared up at the TV screen plastered with coverage of the shooting. Then, one night my evening nurse, Ms. Janet, handed me a small pink journal with a tiny floral pen attached. She encouraged me to write down how I was feeling—so I did.
The poem I wrote in that notebook is called “The Guilt of Being Alive.” The poem vividly reimagined flashes of the lifeless bodies, blood, and the machine gun I saw while being held hostage in the bathroom with the shooter for three hours. I expressed the emotional pain of surviving, and the inescapable guilt I felt for being alive to tell my story.
Those words silenced the massive room full of eager reporters as I read them out loud during a press conference at the hospital. Afterward, every media outlet across the world that covered the shooting shared my poem. From Africa to New Zealand, hundreds of TV channels, websites, and radio stations broadcast my words. The millions of views, the thousands of shares, and countless reposts in multiple different languages let me know that my words mattered, and that I’d been received by open arms.
Since the shooting, I returned to New York University to finish my studies as a Media, Culture, and Communication major. In addition, I have worked as the Outreach Director for the Gun Violence Survivors Foundation, where we connect victims of gun violence with the resources they need. I’ve also had the opportunity to become a certified creative producer through UCLA’s Summer Film Institute. I was fortunate enough to live in Los Angeles, CA all summer, while interning at iconic Paramount Pictures, where I learned how films and TV shows are developed. I wanted to gain this experience, because I want to share my story in a visual way in hopes to inspire even more people. It was an amazing experience! Learning from studio executives, hearing from writers, producers, and big directors was an experience that a city girl like me could only dream of.
In addition to my ample life experience at a relatively young age, I’ve won numerous awards and have received widespread recognition for my advocacy work and for sharing my story. I’ve appeared on and been profiled by national media outlets including CNN, the New York Times, Teen Vogue, USA Today, Slate, NBC News, Fox News, New York Daily News, PBS,
Female, 22 years old
Miami Beach, Florida
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Instagram posts where I promoted the brand you see below.
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