AURORA, Colo. -- She was just 8 years old when a bullet nearly took her life. Now, nearly nine years later, a victim of random violence is set to accomplish a major achievement in her life.
On June 20, 2008 just before 7 p.m., when Sierra Moore was walking to her grandma's home near Curtis Park when she got caught in the middle of a drive-by shooting.
A bullet pierced the side of her chest and went out her back.
Her 13-year-old aunt was with her and carried her to a nearby Burger King for help. News video captured Rickeesha Gay walking with police officers and her sweatshirt covered with her niece's blood.
"If she wasn't there I'd probably be dead. I’m glad she was there," Moore said.
Her mother, Wynisha Jones, remembers that devastating day all too well.
“She was just lying there. I heard the sirens coming. So I'm like, 'What's going on?' I'm screaming. Shaking her. She's not responding," Jones said.
Daniel Lujan, 20, had meant to shoot another man he said pulled a gun on him and his family. But Moore became the accidental target.
Lujan was later sentenced to 30 years in prison.
"We go down there (to Curtis Park) every year. It brings so many memories," Moore said.
A large mural of Moore as a little girl with braids in her hair memorializes Moore's injury and eventual recovery after several surgeries to repair damage to her spinal column, a lung and a rib.
"I am very proud. She has come a long way, a very long way," Jones said.
Moore's injuries and recovery forced her to stay behind a grade.
But she crammed a year of study last summer and this year to be able to walk with her original class of 2017.
Her mother said she would leave home at 7 a.m. and return home at 5 p.m. every day.
"There were times she'd say, ‘I cannot do this.' I’d say, ‘Yes you can. You'll be alright.’ And she did it,” Jones said. "This is nothing. You've been through the worse. Now this is a breeze walk.”
All the while, Moore tried to help others in restorative justice classes where her experience as a crime victim opened the eyes of others.
"I tell them every day is not promised. You have to get your life together, so you can live a good life instead of a bad life," Moore said.
It was a bad life that could have ended hers nearly nine years ago. But now, it looks brighter than ever.
Moore graduates from Hinkley High School on Monday afternoon.
She plans to study at the Community College of Aurora, with eventual plans to become a dental hygienist. She said she wants to ease people's general fear of dentists.
Conquering fear is something she knows quite a bit about herself.AlertMe