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Thu July 26, 2012
'I Didn't See The Gun, And I Didn't Hear The Bullet'
Originally published on Fri July 27, 2012 9:59 am
In 1980, Edith Green, a divorced school teacher, lived alone in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., just north of New York City.
One night, she struck up a friendship with a young man she had met at a friend's house — a relationship that would change her life forever.
"It was a very platonic relationship," she told her granddaughter. "I just didn't see this coming at all."
Edith, 54 at the time, told the man that she would be attending a play with a friend one evening.
"He followed me to New York, and I decided then and there that there was something wrong," she says.
Edith says she told him, "That's it. I don't want to see you anymore."
The man threatened Edith and told her she would be sorry for cutting him off.
"And sure enough, one night when I was leaving the house, I realized I was being followed," Edith recounts. "And I walked back and I started to say to him, 'You have to stop following me.'
"And I didn't see the gun, and I didn't hear the bullet."
Edith was shot in the throat. The bullet exited her back, leaving her with a spinal cord injury.
Edith's rehabilitation took six months. "They had to teach me how to swallow, how to talk," she says.
She also had to leave teaching. After her recovery, she became a middle school guidance counselor.
While the attack left Edith on crutches, she wouldn't let that prevent her from leading an active life, her granddaughter says.
"The span of my life you were always on crutches," she tells Edith. "But I always really admired how strong you were. You would just live your life, you wouldn't let that interfere. You would go swimming, you would go shopping."
Edith's injuries did, however, prevent her from continuing with her life-long love of dance. She had taken dancing lessons as a child in New York, where she was known for giving her neighbors lessons for a penny.
"My biggest regret is that I couldn't teach you how to dance," Edith tells her granddaughter. "I couldn't teach you the tap dancing steps. ... I have six grandsons and you're my only granddaughter, and I so wanted to teach you how to dance."
For years after her injury, it plagued Edith that she didn't sense the danger her attacker posed. "How could I not see it coming?" she would ask herself. "That's what bothered me."
Ultimately, another tragedy finally enabled Edith to stop blaming herself for what happened that night.
"After he was released from prison, he shot another woman in the back," she says. "And I realized that I had not done anything to deserve what he had done."
Edith Green passed away in 2010, at the age of 84.
Audio produced for Morning Edition by Michael Garofalo.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Victims of gun violence have been on our minds over the past week, and today from StoryCorps, a woman who survived a shooting. Edith Green spoke about what happened to her with her granddaughter. Back in 1980, Edith was a divorced school teacher living just north of New York City, and she had recently struck up a new friendship.
EDITH GREEN: I had met this young man at a party at a friend's house. It was a very platonic relationship, and I just didn't see this coming at all. One night I said to him that I was going to go to a play with a girlfriend of mine. He followed me to New York, and I decided then and there that there was something wrong and I told him, that's it, I don't want to see you anymore, and he threatened - he said, oh, you'll be sorry for this, and sure enough, one night when I was leaving the house, I realized I was being followed and I walked back and I started to say to him, you have to stop following me, and I didn't see the gun and I didn't hear the bullet.
I was shot, it was in the throat, and the bullet exited my back. On the way between the front and the back it did its damage. I have a spinal cord injury. They had to teach me how to - how to swallow, how to talk. When you think about that whole...
That whole era?
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: That whole time, and you try to make sense of what happened to you, what, what comes to your mind?
GREEN: Well, actually, how could I not see it coming? That's what bothered me. But after he was released by prison, he shot another woman in the back, and I realized that I had not done anything to deserve what he had done.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: The span of my life you were always on crutches.
GREEN: Yeah. Yeah.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: But I always really admired how strong you were. You would just live your life. You wouldn't let that interfere. You would go swimming, you would go shopping.
GREEN: Oh, yeah. It - my biggest regret is that I couldn't teach you how to dance. I couldn't teach you the tap dancing steps. My only granddaughter. You know I have six grandsons and you're my only granddaughter.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Mm-hmm.
GREEN: And I so wanted to teach you how to dance, but, you know, maybe we can still do something.
MONTAGNE: Edith Green with her granddaughter at StoryCorps in New York. Edith died in 2010. The conversation was pulled from the StoryCorps archive at the Library of Congress. You can find the StoryCorps podcast at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.