A 23-year-old Orangeburg mother of four always wanted to be a motivational speaker.
Sierra White said that was her goal, even before she was shot three times outside of a Graham Street residence on Feb. 25, 2020.
A year-and-a-half later, White said she’s come a long way and will always have reminders of the shooting that caused her to be immediately paralyzed.
“But I never claimed it because I knew I would have walked again,” she said, “and I am walking again. I’m getting better day by day.”
White said she had just gotten to the Graham Street residence from a nearby gas station and was preparing to work her shift at Husqvarna when she was shot.
Other people were outside of the residence when the shooting erupted.
“Time went by and the next thing you know, I just heard a shot,” she said.
“I didn’t think to look back because I didn’t see a car. I knew nobody around me was shooting just to be shooting,” she said.
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“By the time I heard the second shot, I jumped up and the next thing you know, I was falling right back down to where I jumped up from,” she said.
She’s not sure which bullet hit her first: the one in her back, the one that hit the side of her neck or the one that went through one of her legs.
“My adrenaline was up. I was just trying to get away. I was just devastated,” she said.
Nobody else around her was injured, however, four vehicles at the scene sustained damage from bullets.
Two of her children were asleep inside of the residence, she said.
Orangeburg County EMS transported her to the Regional Medical Center but medics ended up taking her to a hospital with a trauma center in Columbia.
She remained there for a month and began physical therapy within about two or three days of getting there.
When she returned home to Orangeburg, she was paralyzed from the waist down, but kept up with physical therapy appointments at HealthPlex in Orangeburg.
“I couldn’t do nothing,” she said.
“It changed a lot for me for being a mother, sister, daughter, anything. I felt guilty for being away from my kids so long, but I didn’t want my kids to see me like that,” she said.
“Mom was always their hero,” she added, “They would ask me to do things and I tried to explain to them, ‘I can’t walk. I can’t walk. I can’t do this.’”
White said her mother helped her with the oldest two children.
“I was so used to people doing a lot for me,” she said, “but when I get that strength just to walk a little bit, I stopped depending on people to push me around in my wheelchair.”
“I said, ‘If I can walk, I’m going to try to do this,’” she said.
“So I tried to walk to the bathroom to get in the shower, I tried to walk to the front door and I did it,” she said.
She said the small accomplishments made her feel like she was on top of the world.
She completed physical therapy three weeks ago.
She is able to walk with the assistance of a walker.
The bullet that struck her in the back remains lodged there, too risky for surgeons to remove, she said.
Aside from the physical reminders of the shooting, with daily pain, damaged nerves and static nerves, she said, she also copes with post-traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD.
“Anything could trigger it. If something accidentally falls and I didn’t know it was about to fall, it scares me, my legs get to tingling,” she said.
Loud noises cause her to feel anxiety and fear, and have adverse physical reactions.
White said she used to enjoy taking part in July 4 and New Year’s Eve celebrations where fireworks are on full display, but all of that’s changed now.
She wants people to stop using guns to settle disagreements.
She calls for gun violence to end in Orangeburg and everywhere.
“That’s not the way to go,” she said.
“They don’t understand what they did to me and what they have put me through,” she said. “Nobody understands.”
“One thing I never wanted was revenge. Never,” she said.
“Because God sits high and looks low and karma is real. I didn’t want no revenge. I don’t want no beef. I hope that they turn their life around and ask God to forgive them and get their self together because I know it wasn’t meant for me,” she said.
“I gave it to God,” she said. “However he handles it, that’s what he do.”
White said she admires award-winning comedian and talk show host Steve Harvey.
“He’s always taking and giving people advice and motivating them,” she said.
White is looking for opportunities to motivate communities in Orangeburg to not use guns to solve problems and to inspire others to join her efforts.
She wants to be part of community initiatives that inspire people to solve problems without using violence.
If interested in efforts to encourage putting an end to gun violence, contact Sierra White at email@example.com.
The Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office has not yet charged anyone in the shooting that injured White. If anyone has information about the Feb. 25, 2020 shooting on Graham Street in Orangeburg, they are asked to call Crimestoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC. Callers don’t have to give their names.
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org or 803-533-5545. Follow on Twitter: @MRBrownTandD