TAMPA, Florida -- For the last five years, we've brought you the tragic and inspiring story of the Bloomingdale Library attack survivor. We've shown you her radiant smile and captured her innocent laugh, but we've never been able to show you her face or reveal her name.
Now, for the first time, we can tell you who she is: her name is Queena, and she's a survivor.
On the night of April 24, 2008, just two days after Queena turned 18, a man viciously attacked her as she returned books to the Bloomingdale Regional Library. Kendrick Morris was convicted of the crime, and is now serving decades behind bars.
Queena's life is changed forever. To this day, she can't walk or talk, but she's a constant fighter.
"We don't want the community to forget her," says Queena's mother, Vanna. She says they're both grateful for all the support that friends and strangers alike have provided over the last five years.
That's why Vanna talked with Queena about sharing her story online. Queena may not be able to voice her feelings, but she can definitely show them. To say no, she opens her mouth with an angry scowl. To say yes, she smiles and laughs.
When it came to creating a website, Queena laughed enthusiastically. That's howJoinQueena.com was born.
"Queena chose to have her real name spread out to the community," Vanna says.
Family friend Paula MacDonald worked with the family to create the site, collaborating with Full Media in Georgia. The company was so touched by Queena's battle, it volunteered to create JoinQueena.com for free.
"This is something that could happen to anybody's child," MacDonald says. "For [Vanna] to do anything she can to help her child move forward and have a better life, I feel really proud to be a part of that."
"Everybody gets kind of upset about the smaller things in life, but when you see it all taken away from you, it really grounds you a lot,"saysChris Tolisano, who ownsBest Day Fitness Studio in St. Pete and has worked with Queena for the last year."To see her progress in a year, it's pretty amazing."
It's especially amazing through the eyes of a mother, who stands by Queena every step of the way.
"It's not easy, you know. I'm human," Vanna says. "But every day I can see the good news come, the good blessings. We have blessings every day."
Queena turns 23 on Monday. On Saturday, April 20, she's having a public birthday party from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. atKeel & Curley Winery in Plant City. Then on Saturday, May 18, students at East Bay High School are holding a 5K to raise money for her.