After dealing with vision problems, slurred speech, inability to write with a pen, all the usual Multiple Sclerosis nervous system attacks, one malfunction really got to me: I could not walk backwards.
Now, I don’t know why this irritated me so-but it did. So I practiced over and over how to move backwards. Some days just one foot would move; but, little by little I felt improvement.
Then one morning in broad daylight as I stepped onto the sidewalk in front of my apartment building, I saw three teenagers sauntering my way. I had never seen them before and why weren’t they in school? My folding cane was still in my work bag, the bus stop was around the block, but my gait was slow and limpy. My gut told me these kids saw weak prey.
As I continued towards them, they spread out to form a V and I was moving right into it. As I passed the boy he swung a brick wrapped in a flannel shirt at my back. I turned around facing him. “Give me your money,” he commanded as his cohorts started closing in.
“Don’t do this to me.” I said in a “my-life-is-bad-enough-right-now” attitude. My stupid mind was thinking, “I can take these kids. I’ve fought bigger rats!” My body kept walking backwards towards the corner where a large grocery was and many people would be walking to the bus right now.
I couldn’t believe he kept coming, brandishing his slingshot brick.
As I made it to the corner I turned and crossed the street heading for the grocery. Finally I yelled out, “I’m going to call the police!” I didn’t look back, but they had scattered. As soon as I made it inside the grocery I shouted, “Call the police! I’ve been attacked!” Wow, two clerks ran out after the kids. I had never seen men run so fast before. They saw the kids hop into a taxi. Meanwhile I was on the phone with police and the taxi was stopped one block away. The Medics checked me out, by the grace of God or my guardian angel or whatever (I would be helped again often) I was fine. The kids were arrested; they had mugged an elderly woman two blocks away and were getting drug money for their dad. The brick was with them in the taxi, they had no intention to pay for the ride.
Now, I certainly do not recommend anyone put up a fight with a mugger or criminal, those kids could easily have had a gun. However, by golly, we are not your grandfather’s PWD (people with disabilities). Above my desk at my former job, I posted a sign that some magazine actually published in sincerity: “…people with canes are known to strike out or trip you, so use caution.” The absurdity of it made me laugh, but no more.
Two months ago in the city I call home, Seattle, Washington, a crazed man suddenly began dousing pedestrians with lighter fluid during an otherwise normal busy downtown lunch hour. He attacked two women, lighting one on fire immediately; then he began dousing eighty-two year old Gus Jones. Gus, who is in need of a new hp, was knocked to the ground. He swung his cane and made a direct hit on his assailant’s head, ending the frightening assaults. His courage was heralded by all who watched.
In Feb. of this year a 60 year old Austin, Texas, man was held captive in his home for 24 hours and stabbed repeatedly by a woman wanting drug money. His arthritis was so bad he could not pull himself onto his scooter when the attacker left for a moment, so he crawled to his phone and called 911.
And the recent surveillance video of a 101 year old woman, leaving her NYC apt.
building with her walker, being punched not once but three times, then shoved over for her purse, proves her later comment that if she had been 15 years younger he wouldn’t have gotten away.
Now I don’t recommend the way Margaret Johnson of Harlem pulled her .357 pistol from her wheel chair and shot her mugger, but I hope these events give those who see us as easy targets a reason to remember that being disabled is not for the weak. We are dis-abled, not dis-couraged.
Send your questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org .