WORKING WOMEN

Paralyzed Prince George's Co. police officer wins pageant

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PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, Md. (WJLA) - Shani Watson fulfilled her lifelong dream of becoming a police officer in 1996.

But, in 2004, while on duty, she was involved in a car accident on a wet, slippery road.

"My power steering went out," Watson recalls. "I remember the cruiser turning counter-clockwise."

Watson was paralyzed from the mid-back, down.

Now, 10 years later, she still works for the Prince George's County Police Department, as an IT project manager, and she has a new title - Ms. Wheelchair Maryland.

"I was shocked," she said of her win. "I'm still shocked some days!"

Watson says the pageant contestants felt like a sisterhood.

"The perception, the stereotype, the barriers within our community...so we bonded rather quickly," she explains.

Watson grew up in D.C. and was always in top physical condition, as an Army reservist and even a kickboxing instructor. But when doctors told her it was "likely" she would never walk again, she decided to be positive.

"So even 10 years later, I'm still hopeful that I will walk again," she says.

And as she represents the state of Maryland in the national pageant, Shani Watson wants everyone to know it's OK to feel angry and bitter about your problems - but just not for too long.

"Difficulties come to everyone, and it's not the challenge that's important as much as it is how you overcome it."

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