Missy Jenkins Smith, a survivor of the 1997 Heath High School shooting who was left paralyzed, brought a room of a thousand to their feet Wednesday night as she walked to the center of the stage at the Galt House in Louisville.
Jenkins Smith used a brace to help her stand and a walker. Her husband, Josh, was by her side in case she needed any support.
According to William Croyle, co-author of Jenkins Smith's book, "I Choose to be Happy," Jenkins Smith was the "moment of inspiration" speaker at the annual Kentucky Association of School Administrators conference. Croyle said it was the first time Jenkins Smith had walked publicly since the 2000 Democratic convention when Al Gore asked her if she would walk across the stage.
On Dec. 1, 1997, Jenkins Smith was participating in a prayer group at Heath High School when Michael Carneal, a 14-year old student, pulled a gun out of his backpack and began shooting at the group, killing three students and injuring five others.
"The theme of the conference was first responders, and Missy spoke about how important the first responders were in the Heath shooting," Croyle said. "Missy thanked her sister, students, teachers, principals, psychologists and doctors that helped her."
Also at the event, Jenkins Smith relaunched her book, "I Choose to be Happy," and signed copies.
"We have updated the book with what has happened in her life since it was published and also included chapter discussions that teachers will love," Croyle said.
According to Croyle, Jenkins Smith will be moving from her job as a counselor at Calloway County Schools Day Treatment Center to become a full-time public speaker, something she has been doing part time for 15 years.
"It was a 'moment of inspiration' when she walked across the stage," Croyle said.
Contact Andrea Moore, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8684.