A community came together this weekend for a young woman brutally beaten and sexually assaulted outside a Valrico library nine years ago. Queena Phu missed many milestones following that attack, including her senior prom.
"We didn't think we were ever going to be able to recreate prom for her," said Queena's sister, Anna Donato.
But just a few weeks ago, that pipe dream started to become reality. Family friend and Bloomingdale High School student Derrick Perez asked Queena to be his prom date.
Queena was attacked just days before her own senior prom in 2008. She had already bought a beaded lavender gown to wear back then.. A seamstress altered the dress for free so Queena could wear it Saturday night. Local businesses pitched in with hair and makeup, spa treatments, flowers, and even a 60-rider strong motorcycle escort on prom night.
"We're very honored to be able to escort Queena based on everything that's happened to her. She's near and dear to our heart and has been for the last several years," said Ron Roo, Brandon Harley Davidson Old Town Chapter road captain.
Queena and Derrick were treated like royalty as they made their way from their carriage into the prom. Her family feels incredibly grateful for the wealth of support that's been with them from the start and helped make this magical night happen.
"That blows me away more than anything else...That a story can stay alive for so long in people's hearts and that people are still open and willing to help out even though this happened almost 10 years ago," said Donato.
Queena is still unable to speak because of the extensive injuries she suffered so long ago. But therapy continues to make her stronger, and she was proving that on prom night, cutting a rug on the dance floor with a beaming smile.
"We just hope people know that even if something terrible happens, you can still live, love and there are people out there who will get you through it," Donato said.
Just last month, a judge re-sentenced Queena's attacker, Kendrick Morris, to life in prison.
His defense attorneys asked to reduce his sentence after a Supreme Court decision declared lengthy punishments for juveniles were unconstitutional. The judge who presided in the first case did not relent, even saying, "If ever there was a case that cried out for a life sentence, this is the case."