As a young high school student making pocket money at a convenience store, Barbara Turnbull was gunned down on September 23, 1983 during a robbery at the end of a late-night shift. She was just 18 years old.
Though this random and unprovoked act of violence happened in a suburb of Toronto, Ontario, the shooting affected the entire country. In what would come to be considered by police as the “The Barbara Turnbull Era,” Canada was forever changed. In that split second, violence leapt into everyone’s living room and suddenly Barbara became everyone’s daughter, sister and friend.
A Tragic Event: It Changed Her Life Forever
While in the hospital, Barbara’s first battle was to live. She had to learn to breathe again, without the aid of a respirator. And when reality set in, she had to adjust to life paralyzed from the neck down. Today, Barbara lives her life as a high-level quadriplegic.
The tragedy of the event spread quickly throughout the news media. Due to the tremendous newspaper and television coverage, the public responded with an unprecedented outpouring of support. Barbara received tens of thousands of letters from around the world and thousands in unsolicited donations.
Over the next few years the public eye remained on Barbara. It followed her through the four-month trial of her assailants, in a case that eventually went to the Supreme Court of Canada.
What Followed: She Took Control
In the spring of 1997 Barbara told her own story for the first time, on the pages of her autobiography “Looking in the Mirror”. With utter frankness that surprised even her family and closest friends, Barbara reveals the story behind the story that puts the pressures and problems most of us face in perspective: the fears, the pains of therapy and recovery, concerns for family, the loss of independence and commitment to inspire research and technology to help herself and others achieve a greater fulfillment of life.
Barbara’s remarkable story has been recognized numerous times for the ways she has refused to give up. Her determination it seems, knows no bounds.
For instance, Barbara received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from the University of Toronto in 2007 and further to this, an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from York University in 2012.
Over the years she has also been involved with numerous charities for the disabled and in spinal cord research. She has now set her sights on the very real possibility of regeneration for paralysis. Creating The Barbara Turnbull Foundation for Spinal Cord Research, Barbara has devoted her time, energy, her book’s proceeds and all speaking fees to the foundation. She has appeared in North America’s prestigious lecture series Unique Lives & Experiences and been recognized by Toronto’s YWCA as a Woman of Distinction.
Today she lives in her own condo in Toronto, with her services dog, Bella, a yellow Labrador.