*Editor’s Note: This post was renamed & re-published as part of a 3-part series titled Shaunna’s Redemption. The following passage is part 1, My Downfall.
“…For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;”
Romans 3:23, KJV
“… I had to follow my own advice and stand in my truth–to own who I am, to accept my faults and I won’t ask for forgiveness, just don’t ask me to undo the past…because if I could, I would…”
Olivia Pope, Scandal, 10.22.2015
I’m acquainted with quite a few people across the great state of Oklahoma. The more my Dad grew professionally, the more his place of employment changed, AND the more we moved. I attended four different schools before I eventually moved to Stillwater to live with my Mom and step-Dad. After my high school graduation, I left and returned a few times before finally settling down long enough to obtain my Bachelor’s degree from Langston University in 2006. Although I wasn’t born there AND I haven’t lived there in over nine years, I consider Stillwater my hometown and my heart aches for all my friends and family who have been devastated by the tragedy that happened during the Oklahoma State University Homecoming Parade this past Saturday.
For so many people, Stillwater is OSU and vice versa–it’s hard to disassociate the two. The bond between the city and the university is strengthened by the people, so the entire community is still adjusting to the shock and pain from that fateful day.
Now that the smoke has cleared some, the vigilantes have begun their quest for “justice.” Someone must be held accountable for this crime against humanity. Someone must pay for the innocent lives lost. OSU Homecoming festivities will never be the same and the blame of it all rests on the shouldets of one poor, lonely soul. Her name is Adacia Chambers.
Of course, we all have an opinion about crime and punishment in regards to this young woman’s fate. I don’t know if she had a medical emergency, a mental breakdown or one too many beers that day and to be honest, it really doesn’t matter. The important principle to keep in mind is that no matter how much damage and hurt she caused, Miss Chambers still deserves prayer, forgiveness and a second chance. I know from experience how hard it is to bounce back from a major life mistake. I am still dealing with the repercussions of one I made 17 years ago.
On October 23, 1998, (a mere 10 days after my 21st birthday) the Honorable Judge Jesse Harris of the Tulsa County District Court sentenced me to 2 years in prison for grand larceny, false impersonation and unauthorized use of a debit card. All three charges were felonies to which I pled guilty. In exchange for my admission of guilt, I received a more lenient sentence–a 120-day review, which required me to attend a then popular program reserved for first-time offenders called Female Offender Regimented Training, otherwise known as F.O.R.T. Upon completion of the F.O.R.T program, my two-year sentence would be suspended and I could go back home early.
At first, I thought my sentencing had gone wrong. I thought, I don’t deserve to go to ACTUAL prison, do I? I mean, in my mind, prison was for killers and rapists and molesters and abusers! I didn’t belong in any of those categories; therefore, I didn’t belong in prison! My disbelief turned to panic and horror as I watched my lawyer gather his files and place them in his briefcase. I looked back at my step-Dad, who seemed as bewildered as me. Judge Harris directed me to have a seat in the jury box and I became an “unofficial” ward of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.
When the court session ended, the bailiff escorted me to a jail cell and told me that the people from County would be there to get me in a few hours. I sat down on the cold, concrete slab that doubled as a bed and began to cry as my overwhelming sense of dread gave way to the harsh reality that came crashing down all around me–I was a criminal, a miscreant, a thug. It made absolutely no difference whether or not those terms accurately described me as a person, because now, for the rest of my life, that’s what society would call me.
I cried non-stop for a whole hour. I had access to a payphone that I used to call my Dad to explain what had happened, but when he answered my call, the prompt alerted him to my whereabouts, so I could here the panic in his voice, once we were clear to talk. Just like me, he couldn’t believe that the judge actually sentenced me to prison. He asked me why didn’t I tell him I had court that day. I told him I didn’t want him to worry. As fresh tears began to fall down my face, I heard my Daddy sniffle on the other end. I lost it. I sobbed like a baby as I apologized for being such a disappointment. I promised to learn something from all this and to be a better daughter. He told me he loved me and as soon as I could have visitors to let him know. He said a prayer for me and reminded me to pray for myself, then we both hung up our phones. I found out later that my sister nearly lost her mind when she realized I wouldn’t be home for a while and my Mama was so ashamed she barely spoke to me during my first few weeks of incarceration.
I can empathize with Miss Chambers plight because when I finally got myself together, somebody gave me a second chance to redeem myself. God does it for each of us, every single day. I can never change the fact that I was inmate 269590 in Oklahoma DOC; however, I can be at peace with myself about it, because I am also so much more. And with the love of my friends, my family and my God, I can’t help but continue to grow. Until next time…