July 10, 1993. It's the day that transformed the life of a little girl who would be paralyzed for the rest of her life. Someone shot Talonda Lanier in the head. She and her family stopped at a rest stop off Interstate 40 in Winston Salem to take a nap. Sidet, Talonda's mother, remembers it as if it were yesterday.
"At first I didn't know if it was gun shot or not. My little sister was with and I asked her if everyone was ok. Talonda was whining and I kept calling for Talonda, but when she didn't answer me, that's when my sister said oh my god Sidet, she's bleeding."
Hours later, doctors told her that her daughter wouldn't make it to her seventh birthday. Sidet spent months in and out of hospitals caring for Talonda. But despite early predictions, she defied the odds and became partially paralyzed. She's now 26 years old.
"I remember when I was in the hospital and I was getting physical therapy and I didn't want any help. I figured that I could do it by myself. I was trying to be independent and I didn't want any help." Talonda said.
That's how she would live the rest of her life, determined to succeed and to overcome any obstacles that came her way.
"The accident happened at 6 and by 7 or 8 she was trying to run behind other kids. She'd fall, cry, hurt her knee and try to do it again." Sidet said.
But the emotional toll was daunting. Both wondered why they were the ones who had fallen victims to this crime. Shannon Huffman and Michael Barber pled guilty to attempted murder and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
"I've learned how to forgive them. It took me a while. But I forgave them because I could have died, and it's better to forgive those who hurt you and move forward." Talonda said.
In 2005, Sidet had a stroke and is now paralyzed on her left side. So, it's all now come full circle. Talonda helps her mother, showing how to live with disability and serving as an inspiration to everyone.
She told 9 On Your Side that she hopes to graduate from college with a degree in criminology, so she can become an advocate for victims of similar crimes.