More than a year has passed since Danielle Quiroga, a native of Tehachapi and an academic adviser working at University of California at Merced, was stabbed twice on campus.
But instead of dwelling on the past, she resolves to keep going and be a voice for other crime victims.
And for that, she received the prestigious Eva Murillo Unsung Hero Award on April 5. It was presented in Washington, D.C., by Reps. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, and Ted Poe, R-Houston.
"We must remember that even in the darkness the light prevails. It shines through and is victorious... I was a victim, but today I am a survivor," Quiroga said. "I am a warrior with battle scars... Because every test in our life makes us bitter or better, every problem comes to break us or makes us, and the choice is ours whether we become victim or victor... and though a part of us is changed, the beauty of the human spirit is that it is resilient and we will march on."
In 2016, she spoke at the 4th Annual Crime Victims' Rights March in Bakersfield, called "Serving Victims: Building Trust; Restoring Hope."
"We appreciated the fact that she was willing to talk about something so personal and although she was very nervous, it helped her see how far she came," said Linda Finnerty, program coordinator at the Kern County District Attorney Victim Services Unit.
Then on April 5, Quiroga was given the prestigious Eva Murillo Unsung Hero Award.
This award "recognizes an individual or pair of individuals who utilized his or her experiences to triumph over personal tragedy and raise awareness for the needs of crime victims," according to the 2016 Congressional Record Extension of Remarks.
Quiroga said, "Jim Costa heard my story and invited me to D.C. the first week of April and I was going out to network and had no idea anything else was in place. I am really interested in getting my Ph.D in victimology and the top people in the country were going to be in some ceremonies. I was briefly told that I would receive an award before my ceremony and an excerpt was prepared for me from a speech I gave last year. Jim Costa awarded me himself and it was such a surprise."
Costa, quoted on mercedsunstar.com, said, "Danielle's positive outlook on life has helped her, her family and witnesses of the horrific incident cope with the tragedy. Danielle is an inspiration to all of us, and it was truly an honor for her to be in Washington, D.C., to accept the award."
Quiroga has had to deal with lifestyle changes due to her energy level and changed dietary restrictions. She is still working at UC Merced as an academic adviser, but said she needs "to have at least one day out of the week for downtime."
In an interview with Tehachapi News, Quiroga explained what happened on Nov. 4, 2015.
"I was commuting to work and arrived at campus at 7:45 a.m. and was just walking up to the outside of the Classroom and Office Building next to the library when a student stabbed me with a knife twice, first in the front and then in back of my body," she said. "Staff members and construction workers came to my aid by placing towels on my wounds and calling 911."
Quiroga said, "Around the time when I was trying to figure out who to call and what to do I heard the gunshot" that police fired at the assailant.
Her wounds were so serious that she was airlifted to Modesto Memorial Hospital. She was hospitalized for six weeks, went home and then went to a series of hospitals in Los Angeles and Fresno to take care the of the complications that followed.
"The amazing thing was the support and love we were given; there was always flowers, cards and my friends were taking off of work to give me care packages, and the amount of support the community has given us, it just makes us believe in the good," Quiroga said.
Quiroga resolves to keep advocating for victims' rights.