Would you be able to forgive someone if they shot you during a random act of crime? I think it's safe to say that only a minuscule percentage of people would honestly be able to turn the other cheek.
Debbie Baigrie is one of those very rare people.
In July 1990, Debbie was out with some friends for the first time since having her second child. On the same day, Ian Manuel, who was 13 at the time, was hanging out with some older kids from his neighborhood, one of the poorest and most poverty-stricken housing projects in Tampa Bay. This is also the day their paths crossed for the first time.
Manuel saw Baigrie and approached her before drawing a gun. He asked her to "give it up", referring to money, before he started shooting. One of the bullets hit Bairgrie in the face, blowing out her jaw and most of her bottom teeth. Several days after the incident, Manuel was arrested for an unrelated crime. While in custody he confessed to the shooting.
Even though he was only 13 at the time of the shooting, the judge took note of his prior arrest record and decided to make an example of Manuel, sentencing him as an adult, to life in prison without any chance for parole.
Manuel decided that he wanted to call Baigrie, he placed that first call just before his second Christmas while he was locked up. That call, though shocking to both parties, started what has now become a lifelong friendship.
That call led to Manuel and Baigrie writing letters back and forth. Florida laws prevent victims from visiting inmates, but that didn't stop the two of them. Baigrie started attending Manuel's court hearings.
“I figure if I didn’t help and support him, it would be a life lost,” she said. “And my life wasn’t lost, and I felt like his punishment was way beyond what it should have been.”
In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that life-sentences for juveniles was unconstitutional. That one moment meant that Manuel could now be considered eligible for parole, and Baigrie started advocating for him to be released, stating that he had served sufficient time for the crime he committed against her.
He was eventually granted release, and the first thing he did was meet up with Debbie Baigrie to get a hug and grab some pizza for dinner.
The two have remained close since, Baigrie even stating that "he's like one of my kids."
Forgiveness is real, watch this video to see how the whole story unfolded.