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 Chaya. “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, Chaya says.
“The span of my life you were always on crutches,” Chaya 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 Chaya. “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.