Quanisha Hepburn loves to move.
As a youth cheerleader for most of her childhood, Quanisha moved to the music at little-league football games, earning dozens of medals and trophies. But at 18, Hepburn had to learn to walk again after a gunman wounded her in a shooting at the Golden Glades bus terminal in North Miami-Dade.
Suddenly, just moving was a struggle. But she fought to regain enough strength to make it across the stage to accept her high-school diploma from Northwestern High.
Today, seven months after the shooting, Hepburn is stuck in place. She’s still got a bullet lodged in her back from the April shooting, millimeters from her spine. The 18-year-old wants to resume work, but without a car, Hepburn can’t juggle a job and twice-weekly physical therapy.
“If I get a car, I can get up and go find a job,” said Hepburn, who lives in public housing in Brownsville. “And when I get a job, if I get a car, I can get back and forth to work.”
Hepburn is lucky to be alive. Another young woman — like her, an innocent bystander — was killed in the brazen April shooting that remains unsolved. But life still hasn’t been easy for Hepburn.
She lives with her parents and two brothers in a cramped apartment at the Annie Coleman projects in Brownsville, a community long hit by poverty and violence. Within two weeks of her wounding, her mother wrecked her car and her uncle was shot and killed in an unrelated shooting.
The night Hepburn was wounded was supposed to be a celebration.
Earlier that evening, Hepburn’s mom dropped her off at the Golden Glades Park & Ride in North Miami-Dade, a transportation terminal at 16000 NW Seventh Ave. It was a friend’s birthday. Hepburn and a group of young people boarded the bus, which drove to Hollywood beach and back. Music blared. Everyone danced.
Just before 2 a.m., the bus stopped back at the parking lot. Hepburn and a bunch of girls needed to use the bathroom at the terminal. But first, they began posing to take photos.
Suddenly, a car pulled up and someone inside opened fire. Whether they were aiming at the girls is unclear — there were other people in the terminal that morning — but what ensued was chaos.
“I was dazed out. I could hear a commotion,” Hepburn recalled. “I could hear people screaming. When it first happened, I tried to get up but I couldn’t.”
Four bullets hit Hepburn, in the stomach and thigh. Another teen, 17-year-old Danesha Goulbourne, was also shot and wounded. Two other girls were hit by cars as they tried to run from the shooting. Jasmine Dixon, 21, a former prom queen at Booker T. Washington High, tried to run, too. A car hit and killed her.
Miami-Dade homicide detectives are still looking for the gunman’s light-colored Kia and Hyundai, which suffered “extensive damage” to the right front passenger-side area.
She was rushed to Ryder Trauma Center with four gunshot wounds. “She had tubes down her throat. She couldn’t talk. She was sedated,” recalled her mother, Quatisha Hepburn, 39, recalled.
Her recovery wasn’t certain. “The thought of her being paralyzed, it just doesn’t agree me. I get goosebumps thinking of it,’ said her grandmother, Katrenia Hood, 57. “But she came out a true soldier.”
Hepburn underwent two surgeries, including to remove a bullet from her stomach, leaving a long scar that snakes down her belly. Although doctors couldn’t remove the bullet from her back, they’ve assured her the fragment won’t move.
In all, Hepburn spent two weeks in the hospital, then was mostly bedridden at her family’s apartment. To graduate, Hepburn took her final school courses online — from her phone, because she has no laptop.
But Hepburn didn’t miss out on her senior activities. She was strong enough to attend her prom, albeit gingerly and still wary of crowds. And in June, she walked across the stage at Northwestern High’s graduation.
The crowd did not know that under her gown, Hepburn was connected to a tube and a bag to collect fluid still discharging from her liver.
“She appears to be very strong, willing and determined,” said Denise Brown, founder of the victims advocacy group RJT Foundation, which donated gift cars and flowers to Hepburn’s family. “I actually attended her graduation ceremony — that was a big deal, to see a young woman fight through all of that and still graduate.”
Still, life has become listless afterward.
Before the shooting, Hepburn was working at a nearby Burger King, manning the register and drive-through window. But standing for too long is now uncomfortable, so she would prefer a job that allows her to sit.
She has applied to a job at the Amazon shipping warehouse in West Miami-Dade, affixing labels and arranging mail orders. She did an interview, but is still waiting to hear back.
“It’s seasonal. but if you show up on time and don’t miss days, you can become permanent,” Hepburn said.
That may well happen, Hepburn knows — if she can find steady transportation.
How to help
Wish Book is trying to help hundreds of families in need this year. To donate, pay securely at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook. For information, call 305-376-2906 or email email@example.com. (The most requested items are laptops and tablets for school, furniture, and accessible vans.) Read more at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook.