For most 18-year-olds, life is exploration, psychological development, career choices, dating, and healthy friends, and reaching goals. Diamond Garrett, then 18, felt nothing could discourage her. That is, until Saturday, November 3, 2012, at approximately 9:43 pm, when she made an ill-advised move.
The night Garrett took 9 bullets
“I gave someone a ride, and some people wanted to shoot him – and they ended up shooting both of us,” said in an interview. “I was shot 9 times with two different weapons. I was 18 years old and young, and affiliating myself with the wrong people.”
The tragedy occurred in West Palm Beach, Florida, when multiple individuals unloaded 79 bullets using AK-47 and an AR-15. The trajectory of the bullets hit Garrett’s stomach, back, legs, and arms paralyzing her from the waist down.
“My initial response after being told I couldn’t walk anymore was that I can’t dance anymore,” she recalled. “That’s what stuck with me. It wasn’t about me walking, it was about me dancing.”
Rehabilitation center in Gainesville, Florida helps Garrett recover
For two months she was in the hospital’s ICU before transferring to a nursing home for several more months, then to a rehabilitation center. Bouts of depression crept in given she fully understood her situation by now. “They said I wasn’t well enough to go to rehab. I had other severe injuries to deal with, and they didn’t feel like I was strong enough to begin rehabilitation,”
“That’s where they taught me my independence. You know, how to cook, transfer in and out of the chair, how to put socks on, etc.” She added, “I had to figure out what was good for me, what I could do with my new life. Honestly, I’d never had a friend in a chair. I never knew about paralysis. It was like I was learning a new language.”
In 1981, writer David Broder wrote, “…survival of the hero in conditions of imminent danger is taken as a sign of divine favor—a token that [they] have been saved for a reason.”
Television series gives Garrett insperation
Garret was a skilled dancer who was alive and determined to gracefully move across the dance floor, but only this time in a wheelchair.
However, the question she faced was how to turn her dreams into reality? Push Girls become an inspiration for many disabled and non-disabled viewers. At the urging of her mother, Garrett faithfully watched the show pulling inspiration from the series, but it was Push Girls star Chelsie Hill that resonated with Garrett.
Similar to Garrett, Hill was a committed dancer who suffered an injury at the same age as Garrett. Garrett and Hill connected on social media. Not only did they become friends, but Hill taught Garrett how to fully function in her wheelchair to resume her passion for dance.
In 2019, Garrett’s efforts paid off; she posted dance videos in her wheelchair, which netted her over 105,000 followers on TikTok. In fact, Garrett took her enthusiasm for dance one step further, learning routines with other dancers.
Garrett finds new purpose though advocacy
Although dance remains a fixture in her life, Garrett is in college at the University of Central Florida. In addition to her academic studies, she has become a motivational speaker for injured people. Garrett attends annual camps, such as the Rollettes Experience, where she offers words of encouragement to empower women and girls in wheelchairs from across the U.S.
“The youth is my focus because I still consider myself a part of this generation,” said Garrett. “To be honest, I think our generation is lost. We can feel like our parents and loved ones are against us, and that our ‘friends’ are always the best thing for us. But, from my situation, I want to encourage our youth that our parents are not here to hinder or hurt us.”