Join us for the Next Chapter in Queena's Life: Book to be Released Soon
By Kristen Zemina
July 26, 2020
I’m so excited to tell you about the next chapter in my friend Queena’s life. The Life She Once Knew: The Incredible True Story of Queena, the Bloomingdale Library Attack Survivor is now a book. As told by her mother, Vanna Nguyen, it’s available for preorder on Amazon.com. Click here to buy the book.
I realize that this world has plenty of stories of tragedy and horror. It’s simple to read them or hear about them and pity the people involved, thinking, “Oh, how sad.” But it’s my hope that after you learn Queena’s story, you won’t just sympathize but will truly see the people in these situations as having value and appreciating their worth. Theirs are stories worth telling, and their spirit, their humanity, persists always.
I’ve known Queena and her mother since Queena and I met in a high school Spanish class. Neither one of us came away with a knack for the language, but we did finish the semester as good friends. I’d say it’s because I was so outgoing and charming, but the truth is, Queena was easy to like. She loved Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Oreo cookies; she’d secretly eat just the cream part if you weren’t looking. She loved driving with the windows down in her white RAV-4, a Colbie Caillat CD playing loud enough to drown out the sound of her own voice. She loved the beach, and she was the best at curling people’s hair. Everyone liked her. She had the most beautiful smile, and her laugh was deep and genuine. She was a class leader, active in Best Buddies, and she played on the girls’ soccer team. It was no surprise when in February 2008, she got accepted to the University of Florida. She was incredibly bright, her future ready to unfold. We had plans to attend together, but after what happened to her one horrible night that April, I had to move to Gainesville without her.
We’re both 30 years old now; our lives have deviated. I graduated magna cum laude from UF in 2012 with a degree in biology. I went on to medical school at the University of South Florida and obtained my medical degree in 2017. I also met my husband, Andrew, there. I’m in my third year of residency, training to be a neurologist, with plans to attend Rush University in Chicago as a neurophysiology fellow in July 2021.
I share all this not to brag, but because I want you to appreciate the similarities that Queena and I once shared. People seem to feel an inevitable sense of sadness or loss when they hear her story, like she didn’t achieve what she should have, what others have. But she deserves so much more than our pity.
I don’t want you to learn Queena’s story to be fearful of what lies around the corner. And I don’t want to point fingers at the man responsible for her injuries. What I hope you take from it is that everyone has a personality or a spirit shaped by their life experiences. All of those stories are important -- not just the pretty ones. Our stories are what define us, and ironically, they’re the parts that are easiest to miss when you only look at the surface.
Queena’s mother has her experiences and story, too.
I hope that in sharing their story, you can appreciate not just the person Queena was, but who she is and will be. Her story has taken some dark turns that none of us could have predicted, but she has also brought so much light to the world not in spite of her story, but because of it.
When I think about it, I’ve touched only a fraction of the lives that she has. Our
lives have become very different, but whose life has been more meaningful?
Queena fought desperately for her life all those years ago, and she still does every day. She’s earned the smile she’s wearing, and her laugh is the same, hearty laugh she’s always had.
She’s still an incredible and resilient soul. She has so much to offer this world if only we give her the chance to keep sharing it with us.
Kristen Zemina, MD
Neurology resident, USF Health
Tampa, Florida 2020
Photo: Summer 2007; St. Pete Beach, Florida