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School shooting victim speaks to students

NEWPORT, Ky. (Sydney Benter) -- One of the victims of the 1997 Heath High School shooting was in the Tristate sharing her story with Newport and Bellevue students.

Three teenagers died on Dec. 1st of 2013, and five others were hurt.  Missy Jenkins Smith is now in her thirties, a certified counselor and an author.

She told Local 12 that she never expected that the boy she considered a friend was capable of killing her classmates.

"Being there that morning was something that I would never change," said Jenkins Smith.

She was 15 years old when she was shot by a classmate during a prayer circle. She'd never walk back out of Heath High School near Paducah.

"I played soccer, I marched in the band, I was in the choir and we always had a production where we would dance and sing and I knew that my life was changing because of what had happened because of the decision that he made," said Jenkins Smith.

A bullet paralyzed her from the waist down. Now she wheels her way through hallways much like the one where her life changed forever almost 17 years ago.  She believes it was bullying that turned a classmate into a killer.

"Michael didn't have anyone to listen to him whenever he was going through things and so I think that's one of the key things. He let it bottle up and it just exploded. Me being able to talk and spread my message helps me, too."

With the help of former newspaper writer William Croyle, Jenkins wrote a book about how she forgave Michael Carneal before she even left her hospital bed.

"I remember pestering her about that and saying, 'There's no way people are going to believe that, no way.' I said, 'People are not going to believe that.' She said, 'I did. I did,'" said Croyle.

Jenkins Smith has even told the man who almost killed her that she forgave him.

"I told him that I liked him; that I considered him a friend; that I enjoyed his humor; that I liked him a lot," she said it's kind words like those that can make a difference in classrooms where bullying is all too common.

That's why she's dedicated her second chance to sharing her story.

"I thought I was crazy for being OK with it, but I think I knew that god was telling me, 'Listen, you're going to be OK. There's good things in this and you can find the good in anything,' and I think I found it."

Michael Carneal is serving 25 years to life in prison. Missy visited him in prison in 2007. She said at the end of their conversation he apologized for what he'd done.

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