A woman from Tampa, Florida, has shown everyone the power of forgiveness.
In 1990, Debbie Baigrie was a 26-year-old stay-at-home mum. She was out with some girlfriends one evening when she was shot in the face in a random attack.
The shooter, Ian Manuel, was just 13 at the time. He reportedly opened fire as part of a gang initiation.
The New York Times reported a “.32-caliber bullet entered Baigrie’s mouth, ripped through her jaw and teeth and went out her cheek. She began running away, awkwardly on high heels, blood pouring down her face and drenching her shirt.”
The young boy, who’d been arrested umpteen times before the shooting, was sentenced to life behind bars.
Debbie said “her dentist had wept when he saw her jaw, for the bullet had torn out five teeth and much of her gum”.
But she tried to get on with her life and not let the anger she initially felt consume her.
Then, everything changed when she accepted a call from Ian Manuel from prison.
She felt such compassion for the child, for he was still only 14 when he got sentenced, that she began a correspondence with him. Debbie began to forgive him.
They wrote letters to each other and Debbie appeared at numerous hearings to testify on his behalf, noting how young and troubled he was when the incident took place.
“His mom was a drug addict and he was always left alone as a child,” Debbie told People.
“He had no role models so he turned to crime at a very young age. Nothing was ever expected of him.”
He spent over 20 years in prison but was finally given parole earlier this year.
“It was like this reunion with a long lost son. I got out of the car, and we just hugged for two minutes. It was very like 26 years in the making,” said Debbie, who joined him for his first meal as a free man.
Debbie, who's now 54, also posted some heartfelt messages to Facebook.
And what does Ian Manuel think about his one-time victim?
Talking to a reporter from a re-entry programme, Manuel said: “For her to be there for me continuously for 26 years, 3 months, and 10 days later after our incident it was just amazing, it was just amazing.”
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