Many years ago, there was a report from New York about a woman named Kitty Genovese. I pulled the record up and remember the feelings it churned in my heart. Maybe now is a good time to recall it and remember it again.
New York (AP) Thirty- eight respectable citizens, according to a police court – looked on but did nothing as a killer stalked and stabbed a woman in three separate attacks, spread over more than half an hour in the KewGardens section of Queens.
The sound of the householders’ voices and the sudden glow of their bedroom lights interrupted the slayer twice and frightened him off. He returned each time, sought the woman out and stabbed her again.
No one telephoned the police during the assaults. One witness phoned after the woman was dead.
Assistant chief inspector, Frederick M. Lussen, in charge of police detectives in Queens is still shocked by the events which happened two weeks ago today. Lussen, a veteran of 25 years of homicide investigations told New York Times reporter; “as we have reconstructed the crime, the assailant had three chances to kill the woman during a thirty-five minute period. He returned twice to complete the job. If we had been called when he first attacked, the woman might not be dead now.”
The victim was Catherine (Kitty) Genovese, 28, a bar manager, who was stabbed to death as she returned home from work at 3:20 a.m. She lived on a quiet, middle class, tree lined street.
Six days after the slaying, police arrested Winston Moseley, 29, and charged him with homicide. They said he admitted he killed Miss Genovese because he had an urge to kill. Two days ago, a judge committed him to a hospital for mental observation.
The Times, which published a detailed account of the case today, said in part: Miss Genovese noticed a man at the far end of the parking lot where she left her car . . . the man grabbed her, she screamed. . . lights went on in a ten story apartment house, windows were opened and voices punctured the early morning darkness. Miss Genovese screamed, “O my God he stabbed me! Please help me! Please help me! From one of the windows in the apartment house, a man called down, “Let that girl alone”. The assailant, looked up at the man, shrugged and walked down Austin Street. . . Miss Genovese struggled to her feet. The lights went out. The killer returned to Miss Genovese now trying to make her way to her apartment. The assailant stabbed her again. “I’m dying – I’m dying.” Miss Genovese shrieked.
Windows were opened again and lights went on in many apartments. The assailant got into his car, parked nearby, and drove away. Miss Genovese staggered to her feet. The assailant returned.
By this time, Miss Genovese had crawled to an apartment building and sought safety by entering one of the doors. The assailant, after trying two doors, found her slumped on the floor at the foot of the stairs. He stabbed her a third time – fatally.
It was 3:30 a.m. by the time the police received their first call. It was from a male neighbor of Miss Genovese. Police were on the scene in two minutes.
“I didn’t want to get involved”, one man sheepishly told the police . . . police said most of them were just afraid to call.
The faded newspaper report is here on my desk. It was kept in a special file I listed as important. I quoted that report today as a memorial to “Kitty”.
Luke, the physician is the only gospel writer that mentions the lawyer who asked the question of Jesus, “And who is my neighbor”. The law of Moses clearly stated that “we should love our neighbor as we love ourselves” (Leviticus 19:18).
Then Jesus told the story of the man who fell among thieves. They robbed him and beat him and left him for dead. A priest came by and saw him and passed by on the other side. A Levite came by, looked at him and passed by on the other side. A certain Samaritan came, saw him, stopped and had compassion on him. He bound up his wounds and took him to an inn and left provisions for his full recovery.
Now Jesus asked a simple question of an astute lawyer. “Which of these three do you think was neighbor to him that fell among thieves?” And the lawyer said, “He that showed mercy on him”. Jesus said in reply, “Go thou and do likewise” (Luke 10:30-37).
As believers we are bound by these simple truths. How many “Kitty” Genovese will you have in your life? I guess it’s all according to how many neighbors we find that need your help.
John writes, “But who ever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth” (I John 3:17-18).