Samantha Fuentes. She's 18 years old and survived being shot at Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine's Day, but she's my new shero for an entirely different reason. This week I attended the annual PEN America Literary Gala where Samantha and two of her fellow student gun control advocates were recognized with the Freedom of Expression Courage Award. Samantha took the courage part to an entirely new level.
The room went aghast when Samantha threw up during the middle of her remarks and ran off of the podium. You could hear her sobbing from backstage. But minutes later she walked back out, flanked by her mom, and delivered her remarks again—this time flawlessly. The crowd of stiff high-brow publishing executives went bonkers. More than one of them screamed at the top of their lungs, "We love you!!!" like they were prepubescent girls at a Justin Bieber concert. As unlikely as this story already was, it was the second time Samantha had become ill in front of a large crowd. The first was during her speech at the March for Our Lives rally on March 24. And, just like in that moment, Samantha demonstrated enormous bravery. This young woman, still in the process of her own physical healing, is teaching us all the true meaning of recovery.