By Steve Angeles, ABS CBN North America Bureau

Santa Monica – For Fil-Am Jess Fernandez, seeing his wife Cristle cross the stage at the Santa Monica College graduation was a joyous occasion and a sigh of relief. The only graduating student to be injured during last Friday’s shooting spree at Santa Monica college, Cristle tried to draw no attention, asking that she be given no special recognition during the ceremony, covering her leg which was grazed by one of John Zawahri’s bullets.

“I wanted to be normal like how it was before, I didn’t want to wear the boot but I wasn’t going to make it without it. But luckily my dress was long,” Fernandez said.

“She’s more mad that she got blood stained on her toga, but the dry cleaner they helped us so it’s all good. But you know what you’re talking about her injury, you’re not talking about a funeral. May all the people there rest in peace,” her husband Jess Fernandez said.

The college held its graduation ceremony as scheduled this week, remembering those affected by Friday’s violence.

“The students and employees of Santa Monica college have shown courage and heroism during these difficult 5 days. We have come together as a community to heal and pay homage to the victims,” said Dr. Chui Tsang, school superintendent of Santa Monica College.

Cristle’s graduation, and survival, is another highlight of the family who has been struck with a series of misfortunes. In 2010 they were lured from Arizona to California by a recruitment scam and were left homeless. Jess and daughter AJ had trouble accessing benefits during their first months in California and were struggling to survive, while Cristle was finishing her substance abuse program in Arizona.

She joined them later that year as Jess was able to find sporadic work through a temp agency.

“We’re rising up, I can really see myself going places,” Fernandez said.

The family stood strong, as Cristle now 35 years old, continued pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher. She was picking up get graduation cap and gown last Friday as gunman Zawahri went on his 1 mile, 13 minute shooting rampage that left a total of 6 people including himself dead and 5 more hospitalized.

Cristle is expected to make a full recovery, and head off to California State University Doninguez Hills in the fall, hoping to write another chapter in their rags to hopefully riches story.

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