Misty Wallace and Keith Blackburn
Wallace was 18-years-old when she was shot in the face by a carjacker on Oct. 18, 1992. Blackburn was on drugs, in gangs and a violent, reckless 17-year-old when he pulled the trigger.
Two years ago, Wallace posted a message on Facebook for the man who shot her. She asked him to meet her.
"This isn't about hate, fighting, arguing," Wallace wrote in that Dec. 21, 2010 post. "I have forgiven you."
She had forgiven him. He hadn't asked for it and did not deserve it.
"It changed my life," said Blackburn, 38, now a chaplain for the Indiana Department of Correction. "I do not deserve her forgiveness but she gave it to me freely. That changed me."
It changed them both. And now, through an unlikely set of circumstances, Wallace, who lives in Plainfield, and Blackburn, Indianapolis, are on a mission to tell others about the healing power of forgiveness.
"I had to hear him say he accepted what he did to me. I had to think about that in perspective. I had to look at everything he's done since he got out," Wallace said. "(Forgiving) is amazing, and I feel if I can help somebody, at least give them hope, I'm going to do that any way I can."
Keith Blackburn, pictured on Thursday, March 21, 2013. When he was 18 Blackburn shot a woman in the then went to prison, where he found God and turned his life around. (Photo: Danese Kenon, The Indianapolis Star)
Blackburn agreed "It's been phenomenal," he said. "There's been a lot of healing on both sides."
Wallace was a high school senior when that bullet changed her life. It was a Saturday night, and she had been visiting haunted houses with friends.
She pulled into a Burger King parking lot. It was after midnight and the restaurant's dining room was closed. She bought a drink at the drive-through window, then stopped and got out at a nearby pay phone to call her boyfriend.
At the same time, Blackburn was planning to commit a robbery and needed to steal a car. He saw one idling by the pay phone in that Burger King lot.
Blackburn was ready to climb behind the wheel when the woman at the phone spotted him.
"How long are you gonna be?" he asked.
"Not long," she answered.
The woman had seen Blackburn's face. She was a witness. So he pulled out a handgun, put it to her cheek and squeezed the trigger. One bullet in the head.
Wallace never heard the gunshot.
She hung up the phone and her world spun upside down. One moment she was standing, the next she was on the pavement, searing pain shooting through her neck and head.
Wallace's car broke down, miraculously, as Blackburn tried to drive off. A good thing, because Wallace had fallen in front of the vehicle. She says she surely would have been run over if Blackburn had been able to drive away.
The gunman got into a car, a light blue Ford with white vinyl top.
Wallace spent about a week in the hospital. She had a series of surgeries and months of physical therapy just to learn to use her mouth again.
A few weeks after the shooting, Wallace spotted that Ford in the neighborhood. She jotted down the license plate number and gave detectives the key piece of information that led to Blackburn's arrest.
Blackburn was tried, convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison for attempted murder, plus another year for carrying a handgun without a license.
Fast forward to the fall of 2010. Wallace was married with four children and a medical assistant at Franciscan St. Francis Weight Loss Center, where she still works.
But she was angry. Bitterness and hatred had become a burden she no longer wanted to bear. She searched Google and found a photograph of Blackburn winning an award for volunteer service inside the prisons. That made her even more angry.
"I was frustrated," she said. "I got to the point where 'Good. You're doing good, obviously. But you never told me why you did this to me.'"
She tried to reach out to Blackburn through the prison system, but no one would help. Finally, she looked him up on Facebook.
"I was ready to forgive," she said. "I wasn't expecting him to message me back, but he did."
Blackburn had been released from prison in July 2001. He got time off of his sentence for earning a GED and attending college. He kept going to church and started doing volunteer ministry work.
"I served eight years, eight months, not enough time for the crime I did," he said.
Eventually, prison officials let him go back inside to preach to inmates. He was attending Indiana Wesleyan University. (He graduates with a masters of divinity in April and plans to devote his life to ministry work.)
Then he found the message in his inbox.
"My whole body just trembled," he said. "How do you really apologize for this?"
"I am sorry for what I did to you and for all the pain I caused you and your family," he wrote in the Dec. 21, 2010, Facebook message. "I want to help in any way that I can for you to move forward in your life."
Before long, they were speaking to a class at Indiana Wesleyan. Then they went to prisons and churches. They've made 15 appearances together in the past year. They have more appearances scheduled.
They even went to New York to record a segment for Katie Couric's talk show. The episode is scheduled to air Monday.
"All this time I was angry," Wallace said. "I wanted him to tell me why."
Forgiveness, she said, frees the soul. She's been able to let go. She has found peace.
And over the 15 appearances, Wallace said she realized that when she reached out to Blackburn she didn't really want to know why.
"That was never what I wanted," she said. "I wanted him to tell me he was sorry."