Chicagoan crosses Atlantic to personally present Natasha’s courage award

May 25, 2015

Silverbridge woman, Natasha McShane, was guest of honour at a ceremony in the Cross Square Hotel, Crossmaglen recently to receive an award in recognition of her bravery and resilience since she was attacked and seriously injured on a Chicago street more than five years ago.

Natasha and her friend Stacy Jurich were beaten and robbed while walking home from a night out in April 2010.  Their attacker, Heriberto Viramontes (35) was later convicted and handed a 90-year jail sentence, while his accomplice Marcy Cruz was sentenced to 22 years.

The promising Silverbridge student, who had been studying at the University of Illinois at the time, suffered traumatic head injuries in the attack.  Since then, her return to health has been an arduous process but Natasha has defied the odds and is now capable of doing many tasks most of us take for granted.

Last month both Natasha and Stacy were selected to receive a Courage Award from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office in Chicago.  Attorney Anita Alvarez described the awards’ recipients as “amazing people” whose efforts to overcome personal tragedy “with humility, strength and determination are truly inspiring”.

Stacy was presented with her award at the Victim Service Awards ceremony on April 14th in Chicago.  However, as Natasha was unable to travel to America for the occasion, the award was subsequently brought to her, and at the intimate event for family and friends held on May 3rd, Teresa Moore, representing prosecution lawyer, John Maher, personally handed over the inscribed plaque to a delighted Natasha.

Mr Maher and his team worked tirelessly to ensure a conviction and justice for Natasha and Stacy, and said he was proud to be a part of the passionate team that was able to put a violent criminal behind bars for a long time.

“As prosecutors it is our duty to advocate for the victim. These two brave young women were the unfortunate targets of a coward of a man who chose to attack and rob two innocent women for no reason. I am honored to have been able to help bring them some justice,” he said.

On behalf of Natasha and her family, her mother Sheila extended grateful appreciation to Teresa Moore, John Maher and the many people who supported them over the last five years.

Sheila revealed that Natasha continues to make steady progress on her road to recovery and is benefitting greatly from specialist speech and communication therapy.

“Natasha is very focused on getting better and is proud to show off new skills as she masters those that allow her to enjoy life more fully,” Sheila said.  “She enjoys the company of her family and friends, going out for dinner and to the cinema, and spending time with the Headway group in Newry, which provides specialist support to those with serious brain injuries.”

Expressing their gratitude for Natasha’s award, she added: “We thank you for recognizing the hard work Natasha has made during her ongoing recovery, and the courage shown by Stacy on the night of the attack.  We also want to recognize the dedication, hard work and professionalism shown by the Chicago police department for their success in securing a conviction, and our thanks to the Chicago fire department for their prompt response and tireless efforts to ensure the survival of Natasha and Stacy.”

Natasha’s positive outlook and sheer determination is undoubtedly a decisive factor in her ongoing recovery and she is now looking forward to October when she will be chief bridesmaid at Stacy’s wedding, which will be held locally.