T WAS AN UNUSUALLY PRETTY DAY in December.
Tara McCann, 18, was a happy-go-lucky college student looking for
something to do. She and her boyfriend left his home in rural Deville,
Louisiana, and stopped by a friend’s house to visit. They found
him cleaning his room, and taking pity on him, offered to pitch
in and help.
As they were tidying up, Tara’s boyfriend picked up an antique pistol
and asked his friend where he should store it. As Tara turned to
see what his response would be, she felt something hit her in the
back just below her right shoulder blade. The gun had accidentally
discharged a four-ten shotgun shell containing three slugs. At first
she felt nothing, but after a few seconds, the pain set in and she
realized she had been shot.
Rather than panic, a sense of calm spread over Tara. She remembers
saying, “I’ve been shot and I need to be taken to the
and terrified, the young men put Tara into a sports utility vehicle
that belonged to the friend’s family and sped toward Alexandria,
Louisiana, for help. On the way, they spotted a sheriff’s car on
the side of the road and decided to stop and call for an ambulance.
By now, Tara was having increased difficulty breathing. Her condition
had become critical.
“By the time I was put in the ambulance, I knew I was gone,”
she said. “As it became harder and harder to breathe, I said
a prayer and prepared to die. My life did flash before my eyes,
but strangely enough, I wasn’t afraid. I knew that I would
be with God if I didn’t make it.”
As the ambulance sped off, Tara asked to be taken to CHRISTUS St.
Frances Cabrini Hospital, where her mother, Norma McCann, worked
as a labor and delivery nurse. Tara’s brother, Chad, who happened
to be home alone at the time, was the first family member to hear
of the shooting. He jumped in his truck and raced toward the hospital.
On the way, he spotted his mother and father driving in the opposite
direction, toward home. Chad flagged them down, jumped into their
vehicle and they sped toward the hospital. All they knew was that
Tara had been shot and was on her way to the hospital. “The
emotion I felt at that timenot knowing whether my child was
alive or deadwas the absolute worst feeling I have ever experienced,”
Norma recalls. “I don’t ever want to feel that emotion
again. At times, I felt I couldn’t breathe.”
As she was rushed in to the CHRISTUS St. Frances Cabrini emergency
room, the staff began working on Tara. Within a few minutes, her
mom, dad and brother arrived. She was allowed to see her family
before being taken away for a CT scan. They were relieved to see
her, because they worried she was alone and afraid.
Tara says that she wished her family had not worried because, in
fact, she did have a close family member with her when she arrived
at the ER. “As I looked into my daughter’s eyes,”
Norma explained, “she calmly and distinctly told me that it
was going to be okay because Pop was here,” she recalled,
referring to Tara’s beloved grandfather, who died a few years
“My memory of Pop being with me at that time is very clear,”
Tara said. “I know he was there to prevent me from being afraid
and to help me go in peace, if that was what God wanted.”
The CT scan revealed that the bullet’s three slugs had torn through
Tara’s body. One slug missed her heart by only a few millimeters
and traumatized her right lung, causing her breathing difficulties.
It lodged in her liver. The other two slugs were lodged in the tissue
between her ribs. Tara was immediately rushed to surgery as her
mother, father, brother, and droves of extended family and friends
prayed in the waiting room.
“The tremendous outpouring of love and prayers from our family,
friends and my Cabrini colleagues were what kept us going,”
Norma recalls. A slug was successfully removed from Tara’s
liver. But the two slugs between her ribs could not be removed.
Those slugs and her scars are constant reminders of the day that
transformed her life.
Tara and her mother say that the shooting has changed them forever.
“The accident made us realize that life is a gift from God,”
said Norma. “We are both more spiritual and more focused since
“Before the accident, I took so many things for granted,”
Tara said. “Not anymore. The experience was an awakening and
now I respect every aspect of life and the lives of those around
me.” Tara says she believes she knows the reason God spared
her life. “I am here to listen to people,” she said.
“That is the way He wants me to share the gift of my life
with my family and with others.”
Communications and Advocacy
CHRISTUS St. Frances Cabrini Hospital