Remember Barb Turnbull? She’s still inspiring.

Barbara Turnbull is a colleague of mine. She’s just written an eBook titled What I Know: Lessons from my 30 years of quadriplegia – here’s the link.  What she doesn’t know is that our relationship actually goes back about 30 years.

In Sept., 1983,  a high-school student named Barbara Turnbull was shot during a robbery at a Becker’s convenience store where she had a part-time job. Her story made headlines because it was so unusual – random shootings like this didn’t happen with frequency back then. It was a rare and tragic story.

Her plight threw me and my high school friends into shock – for what happened to her, what the incident stole from her. It’s a cliche, I suppose, but we were acutely aware that it could’ve happened to any of us. Middle class kids, working hard to get ahead, doing the right thing by getting a part-time job to earn a little money. But with her shooting, that expected path in life became suddenly unsafe and it shocked us.

We empathized, such as we could: she was 18 at the time; so was I. I’d worked at a Becker’s store a few years before – at Jane St. and Grandravine in Toronto. A bad area by anyone’s admission. Young punks probably shoplifted under my watch (how was I, a tiny girl, going to be able to stop them?), but nobody tried to rob it at gunpoint.

Later, we watched as the trial unfolded. After, Barbara Turnbull disappeared from the public spotlight.

Let me be clear: our interest wasn’t about pity. It was about understanding that there but for the grace of God went us. Which is why, years later, when I read somewhere – it must have been in the Star – that she was studying journalism at the University of Arizona, I was thrilled. Coincidentally I, too, was in university, studying English, intending to become a journalist.

Later, I saw a few of her bylines. She was writing feature stories for the Toronto Star. I silently cheered for her – was silently thrilled that she’d made the big time. She’s done so much more besides, earning honourary doctorates, starting her own charity the Barbara Turnbull Foundation.

When I started working at the Star, she was already an established presence. Her specially rigged desk and computer were there amongst all the other reporters’ desks. Her service dog, Bella, would make the rounds of the newsroom, coming for a visit or to ask for a rub. During this time, I’ve never mentioned to her how much her story touched me.

I don’t know if she realizes how many silent supporters she’s had over the years. She knows now.



  1. She’s always been an inspiration. I used to think of her on days when I didn’t want to get out of bed. To me, Barbara Turnbull was someone who always got the hell out of bed, whether she felt like it or not. And that makes her a hero to me.

  2. Amazing how many people remember what she went through and are still pulling for her. She never let herself be a victim of what happened to her; she took control of her life. Amazing woman

  3. Sadly never heard of the lady but something good has certainly come out of a horrific incident. My personal inspiration is, coincidentally, another Canadian Terry Fox. If I’m feeling a bit tired on a run that guy’s story lifts me up every time.

    1. I do the same thing with Terry Fox. It’s amazing what the human spirit can accomplish when we don’t roll over and give up …

  4. A heart-warming piece. Thank you. I too remember the Barbara Turnbull incident.
    Your parallels remind me of the novel Cain and Abel. Have you read it?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


Sharing a love for nature, heritage, animals and pets, including all things beautiful and surprising, driven by passionate curiosity, and compiled for you in articles, photographs and intriguing regular snippets.

Back On The Rock

Settled back in Jersey, heart still in Ireland....

Dream, Play, Write!

Today, make a commitment to your writing.


Writer, Columnist, Contributor, and Editor



the bippity boppity beautiful blog

let's create something beautiful - Katie Ann De Crescenzo

J T Weaver

And in the end the love you take, is equal to the love you make. -- The Beatles

Dianne Johnston

Living Life after 60

Ray Ferrer - Emotion on Canvas

** OFFICIAL Site of Artist Ray Ferrer **

Smashing Through Life!

kicking the shit out of life every day, right in the nuts

Hiking Photography

Beautiful photos of hiking and other outdoor adventures.

Top 10 of Anything and Everything!!!

Animals, Gift Ideas, Travel, Books, Recycling Ideas and Many, Many More


Just another site


life without borders

Eat, Sleep, Television

Watch as I amaze and astound with opinions about what TV shows I like!

Shannon A Thompson

You need the world, and the world needs good people.

Dear Life, Said With Love.

Life as I usually, somewhat, sometimes, clearly see it.

%d bloggers like this: