Today was my 40-year Anniversary of traveling through the mountains and foothills of being the victim of a Violent Crime and receiving a head injury from that crime. Forty years ago I was nine years old a joyous child rushing to school on a morning that I was running late. I was in 4th grade and school had just started, I was proudly wearing my brand new saddle shoes cream colored with a blue saddle, I had all new clothes, and it was the beginning of a new year of school. I’ll never forget how much I loved shool. My friends had come to walk with me and Mom sent them on without me. I was a night owl and I always overslept, still do. Some things never change.
Mom yelled as I ran out of the house, “Don’t take the short cut!” I yelled back, “I won’t.” I rarely listened to anyone telling me what to do, I was independent to a fault but that willfulness was just what I needed for the journey lay ahead. I walked briskly up Market Street, through the back of Beebe Hospital, over the parking lot, and on to the short cut, a little mound with a tree, a small path and a marsh on one side and just a few steps away a parking lot and onto Savannah Road just blocks from school. I never even get to step on the path that day, at the small hill near the tree, I was surprised to see young man of 18 standing, waiting for me. He asked me a question, I stood so still I couldn’t move, he rushed up to me and put a rope around my neck and I don’t remember the awful beating I took, I do recall in great detail begging him to let me go. Even offering him my lunch money, he never let me go but somehow I escaped. I don’t remember it but I told my Aunt when the Fire Company found me that evening at 6:00 pm, that I had gotten away and ran deeper into the marsh, I tripped and fell, that’s where I laid very still as I heard him walking around me.
I had been beaten, punched and kicked; to within an inch of my life, my head three times bigger than it should have been a bloody mass of bruises and a line around my neck from where I had been strangled. I lay in that marsh all day, I had escaped I ran when he took his belt off I was told. I had escaped being sexually assaulted and murdered. I was taken to the hospital a parking lot away. I was unconscious, I had a broken jaw, a broken nose, a broken cheek, and I was on the verge of death and oddly enough, I remember one day out of the three while at Beebe Hospital where many people from my town came to visit. I was talking, sitting up and laughing. The next thing I know I am laying on a cold mattress; it had water running through it and I had was struggling to get away from it. The nurses would pull from the sides of my metal crib and put a sheet on me. I was freezing but in actuality I was burning up, I had an infection in my jaw and I had a reaction to the seizure medications they gave me to stop the uncontrollable seizures.
I was in Wilmington Hospital for 2 months, I recall maybe a month of that stay. I had a traumatic brain injury, I could not talk, walk, point, feed myself, or hold myself up, and my wrists had dropped. This was the first time that I saw very ill children, there was Betsy, Meika, Keith, and so many others that I can’t remember and I wish I could. They too were either on the brink of death or on their way to recovery. This is the first time in my little life that I looked out over a cemetery and thought, “I will be in that cemetery one day” in fact I thought that’s why they put me in that bedroom over looking it. This was the first time I experience real pain and the first time I began to get a small glimpse of what I had lost and what I had to regain. I did not get the big picture as my family did. I didn’t know I had almost died several times and it is miraculous that I am able to walk, talk, write, work or any of the many things I can do that no one thought I ever would have a chance to if I actually lived.
That day my life was ripped away from me and not just me, my family’s life too. The trauma of that day lives with us so vividly that this morning I called my Aunt Mickey and she said, ” I was thinking of you today.” I asked,” Why?”” and she said, “Today is the day that you were hurt.” I knew that too and I said, “I didn’t think you remembered.” She laughingly said, “Well I don’t send you a card.” I said,” I didn’t realize you thought about it.” She said,” Every year I get a little agitated or uncomfortable and then it occurs to me what day it is.” You see most of my family don’t talk about it, I talk about it for my own sanity and to help others understand violence and head injuries and hopefully I inspire others. We have never sat down and actually talked about what it was/is like for us, we talk about what others did, how other family members felt but there are only a few of us that can actually just open up about how it really affected us.
After Forty years, it is still too difficult for some of us to acknowledge that it happened. It is too sad to think about or it is still something we haven’t come to terms with. That is sad to me and yet it so very relevant to this story because the reason I write tonight or ever about this topic is because I will never forget and we should never forget or we become encumbered with things we need to learn from these kinds of experiences. I have learned many wonderful lessons one is that I can be more than what happens to me and I am not weak because I was a victim of a violent crime, I am all the stronger for having survived so well afterward.
*** Some of the pictures on this site are from Block House Pond the Park that was a marsh in 1973. I walked in a happy child striding to fourth grade and I was carried out ten hours later a child almost dead.*******