AN EXCERPT — I Am Jessica: A Survivor’s Powerful Story of Healing and Hope


Each of us is born innocent; a clean slate, and a pure soul. One that will later be etched, irrevocably, by the things that happen to us along the way.

We each battle our own darkness.
We each seek our own light.
We each stand in the glory of our own truths.
And we speak the words of our own story.

Of these things, I am clear:

Where there is darkness, there is light.
Where there is evil, there is redemption.
Where there is despair, there is also hope.
Resilience grows steadfast through the cracks we unwillingly possess.
It is shaped by the stories we’d rather not tell.
Where tragedy ends—a new beginning stands at the end of a long, dark road.

Each of has a different story to tell, but our purpose remains.
To find our own way through the darkness.
To find our own way back to the light.

Even after our darkest days, we may shine.

-Jamie Collins

* * *


(That’s the name I go by now.)

April 29, 2016

April 29, 1989.

A date I cannot forget.

Numbers forever seared deep into my soul.

It was 27 years ago, today. Jesus. Get a grip, Jessi. They’re just numbers. They don’t mean anything. You’re giving them power over you, again. That’s what I tell myself. But the numbers—those damn numbers—they haunt me. They always will. I cannot escape them. Not now. Not ever.

For most people, dates are just numbers on a calendar. No big deal. Random markers of time affixed to the top left corner of small, white squares on a page to depict days filled with choices, chances, and opportunities. At least that’s what they are for the normal people. But I’m no longer one of them. For me, they serve as numeric reminders of the girl I used to be.

The 29th day of April: the date I will never have the luxury of forgetting. A tragedy that would irrevocably and mercilessly alter the life of a little girl wearing dark blue jeans, canvas lace-up sneakers, and a white tee shirt, accessorized by prominent coke-bottle glasses, her hair hanging in a messy bob. Her life would be forever dismantled. Gone. The moment they told me the words. The ones that I will never forget. At that moment, my life froze and shattered into pieces, splintering like bits of broken glass, dropping down onto the ground around me, like the remnants of a cracked windshield, falling fast before the spinning mind and tattered heart of a wide-eyed little girl.

Life, as I knew it, was over in that moment. What happened on April 29, 1989, has scarred me forever. A day that started out normally, before it became ensnared in marred memories, tucked between folds of tragedy and darkness. The lingering memories cut straight to the core of the hollow girl left behind.

The darkness delivers itself to me, every year, on schedule. Steadily. Greedily. On the 29th day of April. Relentless. Haunting. It taunts the pieces of me that remain. Every single year.

I try to lift myself out of the darkness. I tell myself the numbers shouldn’t matter. Not after 27 years have passed. Jessi, It’s just another day. You can do anything you want with it. Don’t slip into the darkness. But not even the voice in my head believes those bullshit lies I tell myself. Year after year, my happiness recoils, my thoughts run to a dark place filled with foggy memories and a void that swallows me whole. The door of despair opens and I’m trapped: alone, numb to the bone, emotionally deplete, devoid of all reality, space, and time. I hate the helplessness as I slip further into that dark place. A place that, long ago, was filled with light. A place where three little girls would sing happy songs, pick flowers, hold hands while skipping through tall blades of grass, and sit down at the dining room table, where they would bow their heads to pray before plates filled with food, in a home filled with laughter. Then it hits me—the life-defining, self-inflicted images of horror—of their final moments—screams, fear, blood everywhere, dragging me deep into the darkness. A place I would dwell for days, weeks, and months, turned into years.

Twenty-seven years ago . . . and I’m still counting. It’s clear—I’m f*cked. Forever damaged. There is no escape. There is only here. Only now. I hear the songs and laughter. I remember the little girls. The swinging, the playing, the happiness. And then I realize it’s all gone.

But I’m still here . . .

All Rights Reserved – Bold Whisper Books™, 2019. The reproduction of this material, in whole, or in part, without the prior written consent of Bold Whisper Books is strictly prohibited.


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