DURHAM, N.C. — The nation's first female prisoner of war brought her story to the Triangle.
Shoshana Johnson was captured last year in Iraq, along with several members of her maintenance company. At a gathering Wednesday evening at North Carolina Central University in Durham, she spoke of the ordeal and about life after Iraq.
Johnson called her capture by Iraqi rebels the most intense, scariest moments of her life. She had been shot, and several of her fellow soldiers were dead.
"It was unbelievable to feel the bullet pierce my skin, not knowing if I was going to live. I thought about my mom, my dad, my daughter and my sisters," she said.
Johnson and her fellows soldiers were ambushed outside the town of Nasiriyah. She said all she could do was pray.
"Pray that they find kindness in their heart," she said.
Johnson's bandaged leg was not operated on for three days.
She said her captors waited for the U.S. bombing to stop in order to safely perform the surgery.
The former POW credits her captors with taking care of her. She said the operation they performed saved her leg, and possibly, her life.
Johnson told the audience she was heartsick about the prison abuse scandal Abu Ghraib knowing her own ordeal.
"I wasn't treated like that, by the grace of God," she said.
After 22 days in captivity, Johnson and her fellow POWs were rescued by U.S. Marines. It was on a Sunday morning in April 2003.
"I am just so grateful to them and the risk they took to bring me home to my family," Johnson said.
For the college students in the audience, it was a history lesson from a woman who lived it.
"She was there. She could tell us what it was like," student Henry Baker said.
Johnson, a native of Panama, is the mother of a 3-year-old girl. She was awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Prisoner of War medals.