Miss Iowa, 9/11 survivor speak at 10th annual Diversity Conference

Two inspiring speakers delivered two powerful messages at Indian Hills' Diversity Conference Friday.

Lieutenant Joe Torillo knows better than anyone that help often comes from the most unexpected places and people. After surviving being buried alive twice on 9/11, he encourages his audiences to reach past the barriers of differences.

"We have to begin to open ourselves up and allow ourselves to gravitate towards each other," Torrillo said. "And to understand the issues of stereotyping people and how diversity can sometimes be a good thing."

Keokuk native Nicole Kelly was crowned Miss Iowa 2013 with the platform of "The Power of One". Born without her left forearm, Nicole never saw herself as limited. Her message is that everyone has something that makes them different, but differences shouldn't result in stereotypes.

"I carry the stereotype of a pageant queen, I carry the stereotype of a disabled person and every day it is my thought and my hope that I am traveling to speak to break what those stereotypes mean and what they are," Kelly said. "So hopefully that continues to empower whatever stereotype may be attached to the people listening as well."

Two different people with two different stories, but both Torillo and Kelly hope audiences walked away with a better idea of how to present themselves in a diverse world.

"At the end, I think the common denominator of all the lessons I try to get across is everything comes down to, in this world, about personal responsibility," said Torrillo. "You can be whoever you want, if you want to be, but you have to make that decision."

"In my presentation, I talk so much about how you are viewing yourself and how you are seeing yourself, and it all works from the inside out," said Kelly. "And my last line that I always end with is every interaction you have, you are teaching the world how you wish to be treated. So stepping up and taking responsibility for how you're letting others view you and what you're letting them see you as."

The 10th annual conference drew a record crowd of almost 700 attendees.