Saturday, January 19, 2008

39 Steps and 1 Very Scary Blow

At Christmas I went with the time-honored tradition of buying my mother theater tickets for a Saturday matinee, with lunch included. That is how we came to be walking through the Amtrak part of Penn Station, en route to brunch at an Irish restaurant on 8th Avenue and 33 street late on a Saturday morning.

The Amtrak section is enormous, with a large rotunda-like space lined with stores. It was very uncrowded today, as we leisurely walked toward the 8th avenue exit. About midway through this rotunda space, I noticed a man ranting, raving, not making sense—not so unusual. But he was brandishing a detached metal luggage frame, with wheels. So we started veering to the left away from him. I think he ranted something at us, but we kept walking away from him.

In an instant, he came up behind us, and lifted this luggage frame above his head and slammed it down on us. We were walking somewhat arm and arm, and I felt the force of the metal frame hit my left arm, wrist and hand after it had crashed onto my mother's shoulder, before landing on her right forearm.

The rest is a little blurry. I started screaming “call the police.” The guy picked up the frame again, slammed it on the floor, then ran away. I’m sorry to say no one really came over to help. I had to go to the Amtrak security office myself and get them (they are a private security force, not NYPD.)

I brought the security officer back to where it had happened. A guy did come over and said he’d seen the whole thing and gave a description of the attacker, and the security guys went after him.

My hand and wrist were stunned and swelling and I was afraid maybe broken. My mother had a huge welt on her arm and an enormous blood blister formed immediately. And it was so shocking, to be attacked from behind.

But we were otherwise unharmed. We went to the Amtrak office to file a report; some Fire Department medics were in the area and them came for the medical side. They took pictures of the injuries.

The security guy told me that our attacker is a regular in the station, and that he has attacked people before. He gets locked up, and then he’s released, and the cycle starts over. They caught up with him, and took the luggage rack as evidence. They are going to file as Assault 2, but it’s likely to be pled out. If not, then we might have to testify at a grand jury.

That would be in the future. Today, we decided to continue on the path we’d planned. The whole incident had taken less than 45 minutes, and since we had allowed plenty of time, we still had time to eat.

We went to a fabulous Irish place called Tir Na NOg. The Irish pub is a place Mom and I would always feel secure and welcomed: the regulars are watching rugby with pints of Guiness, tables with several generations are having Sunday brunch, God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world.

If the attacker had hit either one of us square on, on the head or even the shoulder, we would not be enjoying the rashers of sweet Irish bacon and Irish cheddar omelette. The force of the blow was immense, but because it fell between us, we were saved.

Then it was off to the Roundabout-—not the one my mother knew back in the day, but the American Airlines version.

The London import The 39 Steps is as frivolous and entertaining as the critics say it is. Mr Brantley again gives a very fine review. 4 people—three men and a women—perform over 60 characters on a barren stage and bring their world to life with one other character: light. The lighting effects are pure THEATRE. The adaptation is faithful to the 1935 films staring Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll. It’s light and frothy, funny and happy. That’s what it is, a genuinely happy theactrical experience. It was another comforting embrace from the universe after being attacked.

I’m sorry that the man who attacked us lives in an alienated world of some kind of mental insanity. I’m sorry that society doesn’t know what to do to help him. We all bear some responsibility for society’s failings. My share, right now, is a throbbing, swollen, stiff, bruised hand and wrist.

6 comments:

Yup, Me said...

M.A,

That is 1 clever title for the post.

Glad you recovered enough to share the story, which tells us that you are on the mend.

Please keep us informed as to what happens to your attacker and what your opinion is of what "we who share the responsibility" could do about these people.

It seems to me that there are plenty of people in the world who are unbalanced. Some choose to accept the help that is offered to them and some refuse it. I am not so sure that we need to feel responsibe for these unfortunates in a democracy where we cannot force help upon or lock up people for being mentally ill.

It is always difficult to accept that we have to punish a crime after it has been committed, rather than being able to prevent the possibilty of one in the future.

Our responsibility lies in maintaining individual freedom, which also creates more individual risk.

M.A.Peel said...

Hi yup. It's the cyclical part of the problem that is so bleak. They lock this guy up for a while, and then he's back until he does something that they have to lock him up again. And he might do real damage one day, or hurt a child. But still, I have compassion for the nightmare that is this guy's own life.

kathleenmaher said...

So sad to hear that happened to you and your mother. How brave you both were: reporting the attack; listening to who the man probably was; and with your extraordinary compassion considering how he must live, as well as recognizing how easily his attack might have killed or permanently diminished your lives. That you found the fortitude to continue to share your day together is astonishing.

M.A.Peel said...

Kathleen, sometimes it's scarier to go home, where the mind can dwell on dark things, and better to be out where the world is going on.

Jeremy said...

How awful, and how strong of you to both write about it and think about it in the way that you did.

The Chhristmas Theatre thing has become a bit of a fixture for me an my mom too. This year it was Noel Coward's Present Laughter -- and a hoot it was too. Should that come your way, try and see it.

Savannah Adams said...

That's pretty scary. Does the guy still lurk in the place today? I feel sorry for the man's mental condition. Reminds me the movie "The Awakening" where a man (played by Al Pacino) is like a man trapped in a defective body. Anyway, I think it's nice to visit some good pubs in Ireland to watch Rugby games while munching on some yummy bacon - yep, that would be perfect for a Europe trip. I hope all is well with you.