Letter from Mom

Dear Friends and Supporters,
 
I’m often asked how my family and I can continue to hold our heads up so high after all we’ve been through. People commend me for my strong spirit and say they can’t imagine what it must be like for my family and me. Well, I’m here to tell you it isn’t easy; it is a challenge each and every day. It has taken me five years to get to this point, and I’m sure that there will be more trials down the road, but I remain constantly focused on having faith.
 
I have two great and beautiful daughters, Anna and Queena, who are my pride and joy. I had Anna when I was 25 years old and Queena when I was 28. From the day they were born, my dream for my daughters was that they would get an education and go to college. I raised them to always put education first, so that one day they would make a positive contribution to a society that gave me freedom as a young immigrant from Vietnam.
 
Both of my daughters grew up knowing and trusting in God, attending Christian schools, where they thrived and made many friends. Anna realized the dream of attending college, finishing with honors and now beginning her own career. I am very proud of her, and forever grateful for her continued success.
 
Queena has had a different journey. She was a bright, loving child who cared deeply for her family. Her life was the picture perfect tale of happiness, goodness and innocence. In high school, she was very involved in community and school, active in the National Honor Society, student government, varsity soccer and volleyball teams. Like a typical American teenager, she and her girlfriends would cram into a tiny bathroom, applying makeup and styling their hair for the homecoming dance. Five years ago, Queena’s only worry was preparing for college, and she had been accepted to the University of Florida on a full scholarship. I was so proud of her. She was beginning to fulfill the dream of getting an education and building a good future.
 
In a life filled with love, love was all that Queena knew.
 
I will never forget April 24, 2008; the day our whole world changed. That morning, I headed to the beach to check-in at a condo rented for Queena and her friends to celebrate her 18th birthday. Later that evening, I was searching for cruise deals online; it was a family tradition, if Anna and Queena got straight A’s for the whole school year, they were rewarded with a cruise. I was excited and looking forward to spending time with my girls as they had become young women.
 
At 10:30 p.m., my cell phone rang. At that moment, Queena’s life was changed forever. All of our lives were changed.
 
I don’t believe that Queena knew that evil existed in the world. At the moment, all I could do is cry out, “Why did this horrible thing happen to my daughter?”
 
In the hours after the attack, Queena slipped into a coma. Doctors told me that they didn’t think she was going to survive. She was living on a minute-by-minute basis. Again, all I could think is, “Why my daughter?” and at that moment, I began praying for my daughter’s life.
 
Just two days after her 18th birthday, Queena had suffered severe brain damage.  Instead of prom, graduation and college, she spent two months in intensive care and another four months in an inpatient rehabilitation hospital. She was left almost blind, unable to speak, unable to walk and unable to swallow, but her determination and her smile were still intact.
 
I am a believer in the quote by Roy Lessin:"You are here not by chance but by God's choosing, to fulfill His special purpose in your life to this generation."  It is by the grace of God that not only did Queena survive, but she surpassed the doctors’ early predictions and continues to move forward every day.
 
It is also by the grace of God that I became a Christian and was able to commit to being Queena's full-time nurse. Since her hospital release, she has been home with her family, undergoing countless home and outpatient therapies. My family continues the daily fight for normalcy and we continue to pray for more healing. I live by Queena’s side, taking care of her, talking to her, coaching and encouraging her in therapies five days a week. I tell her I love her and try to bring her joy. I talk about her future. We rejoice in hope of the glory of God!
 
My daughter became known to the world as the “Bloomingdale Library Attack Victim.” We always hated the word “victim,” and three years after the attack, our family asked that she be referred to as the “Bloomingdale Library Survivor,” because that’s what she is. QUEENA IS A SURVIVOR!  Queena's smile is beyond contagious and I call her progress nothing short of miraculous. I have never been so proud of her. We are all survivors and blessed. We continue to live to glorify God.
 
There are no words to describe the pain I feel when I look at photos of my daughter as a happy, flourishing teenage girl and remember the life she once had. There have been many days filled with pain and disbelief. But now, I can only close my heart from this place.
 
In a statement that I wrote to Queena’s attacker to be read during sentencing in 2011, it read, “We forgive you Kendrick, for what you did to my daughter that horrible night, not because you deserve it, but God deserves it. I no longer have to carry the anger.”
 
Three years after Queena’s life changed I wrote: Queena and our family have developed a strong determination to beat the odds and fight for normalcy in life. Queena has stayed strong and hopeful, always smiling. She improves every day, she has inspired countless people in the community to believe in themselves and believe in the goodness of others. With the God-given strength and support from the incredible community, it has shown Queena that there is so much love for her and still good in the world.
 
Five years ago, I was praying for my daughter’s life. Five years later... Praise The Lord! Today, I am praying for my daughter to walk, talk, eat and see... 
 
Each one of us has a dream. My dream is to do something more for Queena so she can leave her mark on the world. My daughter no longer wants to live in the darkness. She no longer wants to hide her name and face as the “Bloomingdale Library Attack Survivor.” Queena made the brave decision that she wants you to see God’s strength through her and how far she has come.
 
I will always hurt and miss my Queena from before, but I am so proud of her today.  She is truly an inspiration to anyone who has the privilege to meet her. Out of tragedy, Queena has become "Everyone's daughter, everyone's friend.”
 
Thank you, Lord, for extending us Your wisdom and grace. We are grateful for and humbled by Your unconditional love. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for intervening and making my dreams better than I ever could - Amen!

~Vanna




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