An Irish student who was brutally attacked as she walked home from an evening out in Chicago has been asked to be the chief bridesmaid for the wedding of the other victim in the incident.
Natasha McShane (29) was a UCD graduate on an education exchange programme at the University of Illinois at the time.
She was walking home with her friend Stacy Jurich (27) in April 2010 when they were both attacked with a baseball bat by Heriberto Viramontes.
Viramontes has since been convicted of the attempted murder of Natasha McShane, from Silverbridge in Co Armagh, and Stacy Jurich and must serve 85pc of his 90-year sentence because of the particularly terrible nature of the crime.
Stacy, who now considers the McShanes her extended family, got emotional as she revealed she has asked Natasha to be her maid of honour in her upcoming wedding.
Stacy will marry her long-term partner in Ireland this coming autumn.
“I chose Ireland because Natasha is there,” Stacy said in an interview with ABC News.
“The fact that she can stand up means the world to me, the fact that she can stand up next to me on my wedding day… I can’t put into words.
“I love her so much.”
Stacy, who is receiving a courage award in Chicago as the five-year anniversary of the attack approaches, said the night is something she is ‘trying to put in her past’.
“The attack is really been something I’ve tried to put in my past, we’ve gone through the trial, the sentencing and wanting to have a fresh life, a new life, but at the same time it’s always lingering there,” she said.
“It is something I hold near and dear in my heart, I know that sounds weird but it’s just because it’s the fact that it’s changed my life forever, it’s changed my family’s lives forever and the McShanes lives forever.
“Just speaking to the McShanes and seeing the progress we’ve made and seeing where we were in that ICU unit then versus where we are today is something to be proud of.”
Stacy, who would have considered herself an athletic and sociable person before the attack, said she suffered severe brain injuries in the attack which resulted in her losing the use of the left side of her body.
In remission at the time for rheumatoid arthritis, Stacy’s condition returned and she underwent chemotherapy as well as other treatments.
“It was a daily struggle. Simple things like using my left hand to brush my teeth or put on makeup or even just keep left eye open to do things were difficult – I’m making progress though.”
Stacy now works as a client services associate for a major financial firm. She said it’s taken her a ‘long time to get to this point’. She said her relationship with her friend Natasha McShane is something she is certain ‘nobody could understand’.
“I know Natasha and I have a relationship with her nobody will ever really understand.
“A relationship that she knows what I know what happened and I was there with her that night
“From her mother’s perspective its therapy for her – there’s a relationship people don’t understand,” she continued.
“Natasha is making so much progress, the strides she’s been making are remarkable … where she was one year ago compared to yesterday. I feel we’ve all been blessed because she is a fighter .”
And although she is making physical progress since the April 2010 night, Stacy said she still carries guilt with her.
“It’s something I still carry with me today, I wish I could have fought harder, done more, the guilt of the state she ended up in and the guilt of me having lesser injuries is very hard to deal with.
“There was the fear constantly of before the final sentencing, the fear of what was going to happen, the feeling like if I don’t do the right things or fight hard enough here might not be justice for her.”
Stacy said her motivation to speak on the stand was for Natasha, for herself and for the victims that couldn’t speak out.
“It was also for other people that have gone through horrible instances like this and they mightn’t be able to speak for themselves or maybe they’re too afraid.
“Unfortunately, there are horrible people in the world – but this is one more off the streets, away from another woman to attack. Being an advocate for these rights was very important for me.”
Ahead of the sentencing in 2014, Natasha's mother Sheila took the stand to deliver a victim impact statement, described the continuing pain, anguish and emotional turmoil the once highly gifted student and her family are going through.
All because of the "brutal display of humanity" that night in 2010 when a random act changed lives forever.
"If it was not (Natasha) then it would have been somebody else. That's the sad part," said Mrs McShane.
"We want justice whatever the outcome....Natasha will have a life sentence of her own to serve, a life sentence of pain and misery and unfulfilment."
Natasha’s mother Sheila told the court she needed constant care, with a team of health workers helping the family.