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Lori Burns: A Story of Pain, Purpose and Englightenment

by Joslyn Wolfe

Lauri Burns

Tikun Olam, is the Hebrew term for repair the world. It is also the best way to describe Lauri Burns' life-path. Sheis now a high ranking executive in an aerospace company and foster care mom of 30. However, listening to Burns' calm, deliberate, voice recount her life story is surreal. A modern day Dante's Inferno. As a teenager, following a brutal beating with a hair dryer, and an incident with a gun-both administered by her father -- she was sent to an institution also populated with the criminally insane. Like the cantos described in Dante's ancient, Medieval prose,Burns' life is marked by pain, suffering, and enlightenment.

"I was a very strong-willed child. My father often abused me physically,emotionally and mentally," says the California resident. "One particular time, I had a friend with me and he began to beat me. He also had a gun. When I spoke about the incident, he hid the gun, called the police, said I was hallucinating and had me committed." Sent to Central Islip --- a place where lobotomies were discontinued seven years prior to her arrival, Burns recalls being restrained in a strait jacket. She says the days turned into one, long, blur of suspended time. "Months, or days, or minutes, had no significance," she says.

At the time of the incident, Burns' mother was not at home. Discovering her whereabouts, Burns' mother found her in Central Islip and sent her to New York where she made several unsuccessful attempts to live in a succession of group homes. "I was a train wreck." says Burns.

Not knowing what else to do, Burns' mother sent her to California. There she recalls her dark descent into an abyss of loneliness, detachment, alienation and despair. "I started shooting up at 17," says Burns. "To support my habit, I began to sell my body...My daily routine was to a drug dealer during the day, and tricks at night."

Pushing the Fate envelope even further, lead burns to a near death experience. "I was beaten and sodomized over a period of several hours and left for dead in a canyon lying in a pool of blood...All could remember was a black man standing over me with tears running down his cheeks." Her rescuer, took her to the hospital.

While there, Burns remembers calling her mother who responded to her voice with ahang up. Mended physically, but far from being mended emotionally or mentally, and clad in only a hospital gown, upon her release, she directed the taxi driver to leave her at the Boulevard, the breeding ground for prostitution and drugs, and the very place she left before the brutal attack.

With the help and prodding of one of her suitors, who she describes as a Viet Nam vet, Burns finally took her life on a different path. "I was hired by a Temp Agency and took a job with an insurance agency," she says. There, she met a role model who she tried hard to emulate. "She had it all, success, car, money and a home. I wanted to be like her," says Burns, the -- biological mother of a now 29-year-old New York Social Worker who has also spent a short stint in Foster Care. "I had her until she was was three. My mother took her in for a few months, placed her in Foster Care. After I received treatment, she stayed with me... and then I raised her...my little angel." Refusing to break completely with her past, Burns began to have NA, Narcotics Anonymous meetings at her home, some weeknight evenings after work. "At this time, I met my first foster child. Her mother was a crack addict who eventually died of a drug overdose" Burns later became legally responsible for the child.

Finding success working for the insurance company, Burns had an interest in computers and took certifiable computer exams. Having a strong aptitude in Math at a very young age, the complexities of computer languages, software and network development came easy. "I remember in the fifth grade a teacher calling my home speaking with my parents about my exceptional Math ability. Their response was, that I was not smart but just crazy."

And to look at her now --- a woman with a calm demure, attractive, svelt, frame and mild demeanor sporting healthy straight blonde locks whose beauty belies her age. Life wears well on her. Among her credits are a high ranking management position in an aerospace company, the writing of a memoir about her life entitled Punished for Purpose www.punishedforpurpose.com, the founder of a non-profit foundation, The Teen Project which is taking youth who are abandoned off the streets and repurposing their lives so that they can support themselves with a job and career and more importantly, the privilege to be the foster parent of 30. Burns has earned notable status in Oprah's Angel Network naming her an Angel and an honorable mention in the February 20 issue of People Magazine as one of the publication's heroes. Burns notes that one of her greatest accomplishments is making peace with her father, who recently tried to commit suicide. "When he told me he did not deserve my love, I told him that my childhood prepared me. Standing where I am now, I wouldn't change a thing, it was all perfectly orchestrated. I told him I loved him and together we can change the lives of the children to follow," says Burns about her father who was also a Foster child.

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