Nearly a year after Brooklyn Rouse was shot in the head while delivering pizza in Macon’s Bloomfield neighborhood, the 22-year-old was recognized for her courage and perseverance as the Cherry Blossom Festival’s first recipient of the Bravery Blossom medal.
“You’re an inspiration,” festival chairman Don Bailey said at a ceremony Thursday. “Because of your courage, your heart for making the world a better place, you are a hero to many.”
Rouse was working at Papa John’s and had been delivering pizzas for only two weeks before she was gunned down outside a house on the day after Christmas.
She was in grave condition after the shooting.
“I couldn’t move. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t talk,” Rouse recalled.
Though it felt like years to her, Rouse spent months working in rehabilitation before she was able to speak and move.
“Even sometimes I still look back and I surprise myself,” Rouse said. “Because when you have an injury like I did, it’s just kind of like, ‘That’s it.’ Not a lot of people recover as well as I have. I’m very thankful for that every day.”
Two people were arrested in connection with the Dec. 26 shooting on Vivian Drive. Both are in jail awaiting trial.
In February, Rouse was honored for her bravery during the Gospel Extravaganza at Mercer University. She used a walker to make her way to the front of Willingham Chapel and struggled to speak as she accepted the award.
Thursday morning, Rouse stood up from her seat next to Cherry Blossom Festival founder Carolyn Crayton and walked with no aide to the front of the Macon-Bibb County Government Center to accept the Bravery Blossom award.
Her words were loud and clear: “Thank you.”
She wore a pink medical boot on one leg and said she is working to gain strength in her leg muscles, which were affected by the head wound.
She is working hard in therapy sessions at Shepherd Pathways, an outpatient rehab facility in Decatur for people with brain injuries.
“It’s like they teach you, step-by-step, how to get back to yourself,” Rouse said.
Rouse said she hopes to resume studying at Georgia Military College sometime next year, but she is “not rushing myself.”
Bailey said the Bravery Blossom medal will not be an annual award and will only be bestowed to people who are extraordinarily deserving.
“From where I was to where I am, it’s been miraculous,” Rouse said. “I would hope it’s very inspiring to people that you can do it if you put your mind to it.”