Model: Claire Senita
Spinal Cord Injury

There are some days you will never forget. For me, that day was May 9, 2006, a day that tried to take me.

I suffered a C5-C6 spinal cord injury that left me paralyzed from the neck down. I was 14 years old. I was mad, sad, confused, and scared of my new life. As I learned that paralysis is so much more than the inability to walk, my body didn’t feel like my own anymore. However, I also realized that I still had my life, however “weird” my new body may be to me. I realized that now was the time to dig deep and reclaim my body and life.

Holding my photo shoot at Bethlehem Steel was very meaningful to me and the perfect place to show my “grit and grace.” Steel is made when individually weak materials are put under extreme heat to eventually combine and become one of the most durable materials we know.

While shooting with Frank and his wife Karen, I was thinking about all the hardships that I went through, how, like steel, being put under extreme circumstances made me a stronger person. I was thinking about all the times I wanted so badly to give up, but I didn’t. I thought about everything I have achieved so far with my new body and all the things I will succeed in in the future.

“At that moment, I was so proud of my strength. This photo will always serve as a symbol and reminder of my strength to overcome anything.”


Photographed by Frank Smith