As a young, single mom who graduated from high school in June, Jessica Forsyth knows the time will come when she will have to tell her 2-year-old daughter, Gabriella, what happened to daddy.
She plans to break the news in stages.
"When she's older and she's like, 'Mommy, everyone else has ... every one of my friends has daddies, where's my daddy?' I'm gonna tell her that your daddy was sick and he's in heaven now," Forsyth said from her hometown, Midland, Mich.
"And then when she's old enough to actually understand, then I'll tell her the whole story."
The whole story began two years ago, when Forsyth, then 17, nearly died after her boyfriend, 17-year-old David Turner, shot her multiple times at H.H. Dow High School in Midland, where Forsyth was a student.
Police responding to the scene found Forsyth barely conscious and Turner dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
At the time Forsyth was four months pregnant with Turner's baby. She didn't know. She wouldn't find out until surgeons treating her gunshot wounds told her.
Just as shocking was the doctors' report of how Forsyth had escaped death. As a girl, she had broken her collarbone twice. The second time, doctors implanted a 6-inch titanium plate to hold the bone together.
That plate stopped what might have been a lethal bullet.
Lucky Shot: A Romance Turned Sour
Police Officer Chad Schieber was the first to respond to the shooting at Dow High on March 7, 2007. Forsyth had been shot at close range. Her mother, Rhonda Poston, who witnessed the shooting from her car, held Forsyth's body, trying to simultaneously stop the blood and soothe her daughter.
Poston held her hand over the smoke that was coming out of Forsyth's back, where a bullet had punctured her skin. Forsyth repeatedly screamed to her mom, "I don't want to die. I don't want to die."
Titanium Plate Saved Jessica Forsyth's Life
The titanium plate that saved Forsyth was the result of a stream of bad luck. When she was 8 years old, Forsyth broke her collarbone when her brother pushed her off a merry-go-round. Five years later, when she was 14 years old, she fell off her bike and broke her collarbone again. This time, the bone split in half.
Her injury was so severe that doctors used a titanium plate about the length of a pencil to heal the fracture. Forsyth felt anything but lucky, and for years she tried to hide the scar on her collarbone.
The scar didn't keep Turner from falling in love with her. Their relationship started off happily, but when he started having abrupt mood changes, Forsyth said, it began to sour.
"We would break up and then he would ask me back out," she said. "And he would be sweet and I would say, 'Yeah.' And then we would break up again and he would do it again."
'Why Did You Break Up With Me?'
Eventually, Forsyth ended the relationship. That March day she had agreed to meet Turner to retrieve a sentimental keepsake -- a small ladybug clock -- given to her by her father. Poston drove Forsyth to her school to meet Turner, and the meeting turned ugly almost immediately.
According to Forsyth, Turner asked her, "Why did you break up with me?" She said Turner then pulled his backpack off his shoulder and started going through it.
Poston, watching from the car, said she could sense that something bad was about to happen, and she was right. Instead of producing the clock Forsyth was expecting, Turned pulled out a gun.
At 10:57 a.m., the 911 line rang at police headquarters. It was a school administrator reporting the shooting. At the scene, Poston, still in her car, jammed on the accelerator in an attempt to get between her daughter and Turner, but it was too late. After shooting Forsyth four times with a powerful .44-caliber Magnum pistol, Turner turned the gun on himself.
Forsyth said she was stunned. "All I remember is a loud noise and my ear stinging," she said. "And then I felt a jolt, and I just went back. I thought he was pushing me, and I yelled, 'My ear. I can't hear.'"
It wasn't until she saw blood that she realized she had been shot. "And then all of a sudden the pain just hit me all at once, and I started screaming," she said.
By the time Schieber arrived on the scene, Forsyth was in her mother's arms, afraid she would die.
Lucky Shot: Unlikely Lucky Charm
Forsyth was flown by helicopter to nearby Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Mich., where doctors soon discovered just how lucky she was. At the hospital, Dr. Greg Casey, a trauma surgeon, pointed out on Forsyth's X-ray that one .44-caliber bullet that was en route to her major blood vessels, spine and heart had been blocked by the 6-inch titanium plate in her collarbone. The metal plate she so badly wished she didn't have likely kept her alive.
Casey said, "[Forsyth's] very, very lucky that she had that plate there. It probably saved her life. If [the bullet] had struck her spinal column, we might be dealing with a quadriplegic patient or a paraplegic patient. She was blessed to have that plate."
Two other bullets pierced Forsyth's chest and shoulder, and the fourth bullet shattered a bone in her arm, but her mother said she couldn't believe how lucky they were.
"There are just no words. There is just … [I'm] dumbfounded. I just stand here and wonder how lucky we are that [the bullet] just stopped. It's just a miracle."
A Second Life Saved
There was even more amazing news from Forsyth's doctors. The metal plate had saved another life: her child's. Forsyth was four months pregnant.
"I was actually in the emergency room, and the doctor came over and told me, and I yelled at him. I did. I remember I was so mad," she said. "I told him to go back and check it again."
But Forsyth's anger turned when she saw the ultrasound and decided that her baby -- even though it was fathered by the troubled young man who had shot her before taking his own life -- symbolized good luck, not bad. Forsyth's mother felt lucky, too.
"We're just so blessed that we still have her," Poston said at the time, "and in addition to that we're going to have a baby!"
In the two years since the shooting, Forsyth has encountered more blessings in her life. In September 2007, she gave birth to Gabriella. She hopes to attend cooking school after one more surgery -- her fifth since the shooting -- in the fall. And she is now a proud high school graduate.
Two years ago, Forsyth lay clinging to life in the school parking lot. Last week, she was in her cap and gown, worried that she would trip in her high heels in front of her emotional mother and hundreds of supportive classmates.