SAN ANTONIO – Editor’s note: The video and images in this story may be disturbing for some.
“I take those moments every day and I’m just like, you’re a walking miracle,” Alana Castaneda said.
The sun seems to shine brighter for Castaneda these days. She says the air is fresher and water even tastes better.
The 27-year-old has a new appreciation for the life she gets to live after it was nearly ripped away earlier this month.
#Tonightat10 @ksatnews the survivor of Tuesday’s violent carjacking turned shooting at the Quarry is sharing her story. Alana Castaneda is a survivor and a fighter. After being shot in the face, she got up and ran for help. pic.twitter.com/wl0ZuUpcKX— Leigh Waldman (@LeighWaldman) November 7, 2021
Castaneda walked into Whole Foods at the Alamo Quarry Market on Nov. 2, for a sandwich and some apple juice, like she always does.
“As I was putting my bag in the passenger seat, I grabbed my door with my hand, like felt this presence and I looked up and there was a gun to my head,” she said.
Castaneda said she got out of the car with her hands raised, trying to comply with the gunman.
But 18-year-old Julio Ceaser Rivera II allegedly kept demanding her keys before he hit her on top of the head with his gun. Castaneda fought back, getting in two punches before Rivera allegedly pulled the trigger.
“The impact rotated my face so fast, and I just remember that my body just went with me and I collapsed,” she described.
She got herself up, ran back into the store she had just left moments before, grabbed the woman who made her a sandwich and had her call 911. The ambulance was on the way.
“I think the hardest part in the whole situation probably wasn’t the actual physical gunshot. It was the holding on to life,” Castaneda said.
She held on for her mom and her dad who stayed by her side through the entire seven-hour surgery at Brooke Army Medical Center.
Doctors had to place two plates in her face to support her eye. The bullet broke bones, damaged her hearing, and was lodged in her neck.
“This is the hardest thing I’ve ever been through in my life, but I’m still here and trying to turn that pain into power,” Castaneda said.
There will be more surgeries to reconstruct her face, making it into one she remembers when she looks in the mirror.
But this moment, though haunting, doesn’t define Alana Castaneda.
“I’m a survivor. I am a survivor,” Castaneda said with a look of pride.
Castaneda said the kind words and support she’s receiving from friends, family, and even complete strangers are what keep her going.
She’ll need physical therapy in the future, as well as therapy to help her overcome the trauma of that day.
But in her words, “I’m still here and I’m alive, and that’s all that matters.”