Diamond Garrett was 18 years old and living in West Palm Beach when a male friend asked her to go with him to grab gas money across town. That quick road trip in 2012 would leave Garrett paralyzed from the waist down as she was shot nine times while in the car, with bullets hitting her stomach, back, legs, and arms.
She said in an interview recently that the shooters directed 79 rounds of ammo in her direction, using an AK-47 and an AR-15. “I was shot 9 times with two different weapons. I was 18 years old and young and affiliating myself with the wrong people. I gave someone a ride and some people wanted to shoot him – and they ended up shooting both of us,” she said.
From the nursing home, Garrett was finally transferred to a rehab with a T-12 incomplete SCI. “From there, I went to Shands Rehab in Gainesville, Florida. 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.”
It was around this time that Garrett realized that those around her at the rehab were not trying to help her walk again but to help her live in a wheelchair so she could go home. She said it was tough going through this mental acceptance process.
As a matter of fact, it wasn’t until one month after the shooting that she realized that she was paralyzed. That broke her heart, considering she had always wanted to be a dancer. “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.”
And then when she went back home from the rehab, things became difficult as she had to figure out who she was all over again. “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,” she said.
But during this time, the TV show, Push Girls, had become popular. The American reality television series peered into the lives of four women living with paralysis in Hollywood. Garrett started watching the show after her mom asked her to. She began to admire Push Girls star Chelsie Hill, who was around the same age as her.
Garrett got to know that Hill was also a dancer and had been recently injured. The two connected on social media, and Hill helped Garrett get a better wheelchair that changed her life.
And with Garrett finding that she was still able to dance, she began to post videos of herself dancing in her wheelchair in 2019, and now she has over 105,000 followers on TikTok. Apart from inspiring and motivating herself with her dance moves, she also recently started to choreograph routines to perform alongside other dancers.
Garrett has also been helping empower other newly-injured individuals through events such as the Rollettes Experience, an annual camp to empower women and girls in wheelchairs from across the U.S. and around the world. What’s more, she has been educating and uplifting the youth in her community to make better decisions.
“The youth is my focus because I still consider myself a part of this generation,” said Garrett, who has been a student at the University of Central Florida. “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. The people that have always been there for us are there to support and guide us.”