Running with a purpose: After surviving shooting, Zaria Truvillion gained new outlook on track, life
Updated: May 17, 2022
PORTAGE – It took nearly losing her life to change Zaria Truvillion as a person, and it may have come just in the nick of time.
Two years ago, a bullet that entered under her left arm pit and exited through her chest came a few fateful inches from killing her.
“They said my braids saved my life,” the Michigan City junior said. “If I didn’t have them down, I would’ve died. I got pretty lucky.”
The marks, along with another on her left knee, are constant reminders of a near tragic spring night, as well as a bad path that Truvillion is also trying hard to put behind her.
“It definitely changed my life,” she said. “Honestly, it was a blessing and a lesson. It’s going to sound bad, but it was one of the best things that ever happened to me, seriously. It honestly made me think about life. It changed my views on life. It took that moment to realize, wow. It showed me there’s so much more to life.”
The spring of 2020 was Truvillion’s freshman year. She was already known for her ability, if not her commitment, as a sprinter, but COVID caused the cancellation of track and other sports.
“Ever since I was younger, everybody was like, you need to focus on track,” she said. “I’ve always been naturally fast. I ran in middle school, but I wasn’t taking it serious, I wasn’t committed. I was more like the person who just wanted to run out in the streets.”
The semester had recently ended when Truvillion and some friends got together for a water balloon fight. As she recounted the story, they went to a friend’s house to use the water hose to fill up the balloons. It was at that time when the boy started spraying them with a Super Soaker water gun. The group of girls ran to the car and the boy hopped onto the hood.
“My friend started driving a little fast and he fell off,” Truvillion said. “We rode back around to say we were sorry and he started shooting at us. We thought it was a joke. He was our friend. We didn’t think he would actually do it. We just sat there.”
The shooter, according to Truvillion, was aiming for the driver, but the bullets struck the three girls who were in the back seat. Two of them sustained minor injuries, but Truvillion, sitting behind the driver, wasn’t as fortunate.
“I just remembered my whole body going numb,” she said. “I looked down and I was like, bro, this is my leg. I instantly thought about track. I said, this is an emergency, I’ve got to call the police. My friend was like, no, we can’t call an ambulance, we’ll take you to the hospital and drop you off. Nobody else was panicking like me. That’s how I knew it was serious, that something was wrong with me. We stopped at Domino’s on 9th Street and called the police.”
An ambulance and police arrived at the nearby Dollar Tree. The other two girls who were shot were treated and released that night, though Truvillion eventually had to be airlifted to a hospital in South Bend.
“It was my first helicopter ride,” she said.
It was determined that one bullet entered below her left arm pit and exited her chest. Another grazed her rib cage, but a third did more serious damage, shattering her left femur. Surgery was performed the next day with rods inserted in Truvillion’s leg to stabilize it. She remained hospitalized for eight days.
“I was actually lucky,” she said. “The first thing I asked the surgeon was, will I be able to run track again? He said, yeah, you’re going to be fine.”
For about three months, Truvillion had to use a walker to get around.
“It’s the most upper body strength you ever need,” she said.
Transitioning to crutches, Truvillion did the first semester of the 2020-21 school year online before returning to the building in January.
“I was able to walk around, but my leg would swell up, walking up the stairs,” she said. “It was really difficult, physically and mentally.”
Come track season, Truvillion tried to run, though the materials in her leg caused her discomfort.
“When I tried to run, the rods would poke my knee,” she said.
Michigan City coach Mike Liss eventually told Truvillion to focus on healing more completely and returning this spring.
“She just couldn’t run,” he said. “She couldn’t balance the physical therapy along with everything else, so I just said come back next year and we’ll figure it out.”
Last summer, Truvillion had the rods removed, and for the first time in three years, she was running unencumbered.
“We ran the Valpo indoor meet in early March, and she had a real nice (60) time, and competed really closely with Joanna Fields from Valpo,” Liss said. “I said, you’ve got something here. She was so green, she didn’t know what that meant. She’s just learning how to run.”
Truvillion continued to progress, enjoying her best meet yet in Tuesday’s Duneland Conference meet, where she placed third in both the 100- and the 200-meter dashes.
“It’s a better way to be known,” she said. “I love the attention. I’d always try to prove myself to people, but in like the wrong way. Now I prove myself in a positive way through track. I got more focused in school after this happened to me, too. I would be late for class, skip class, I’ll get to it later. I realized school’s not even bad at all. Once I got consistent with it, it was easy, just get it done. I always had so much anger. Everybody’s telling me, I’m so much more positive now, calmer. I’ve slowed down. I cherish so much stuff now.”
Doctors told Truvillion that the bullet that remains in her knee would cause more damage to remove, so she will always have aches and pains, unless she moves to a warmer, dryer climate. In another way, it has become of symbol for both her speed and the troubles she’s overcome.
“It showed me you get what you bring into the world,” she said. “If I wasn’t around certain people, it all probably wouldn’t have happened in the first place. It’s showing me how I was misleading my little brothers (ages eight and four). They watch everything I do. I want to lead them on the right path. I don’t want them to get kicked out of school. Once (Derrick) saw me taking things serious, he joined the soccer team, he wants to play basketball.”
Ironically, Truvillion has been around death much of her life as her family has been in the funeral home business since the 1960s in La Porte County and Benton Harbor, Michigan.
“I grew up around it,” she said. “I’m pretty used to it.”
After high school, Truvillion plans to study Pathology in college and eventually go into the profession, with renewed hopes that success in track will set her on the path to success in life.
“That’s my ticket out of here,” she said.
Zaira Truvillion of Michigan City survived a shooting two years ago that helped her gain a new perspective on track and life.