Oprah Talks to the Central Park Jogger
Oprah: You didn't look in a mirror after the attack?
Central Park Jogger: Oh yes, I did. After six weeks it wasn't like, "My God, I'm beautiful"—but it wasn't that bad either.
Oprah: Today if you see a group of boys while you're walking down the street alone, what do you feel?
Central Park Jogger: Several years ago when I was running with a friend in the park, this group of teenage guys suddenly came running up, and I got really scared. My friend, who had seen them approaching, started running back toward me just to make sure I was okay.
Oprah: Weren't you running soon after the attack?
Central Park Jogger: I was, but in no way like I had been. The head of the physical therapy department told me there was an Achilles Track Club for disabled runners who met at the hospital. When he asked whether I wanted to join, I said, "Do you think I can?" I hadn't even been walking that long. Just seeing a community of others with disabilities gave me strength. So I went around a parking lot for about a quarter of a mile, running very slowly. It felt so good to complete that loop. I thought, "This is nothing like what I did before, but look what I can do!"
Oprah: You were once an eight-minute miler?
Central Park Jogger: Yes, and I used to run long distances.
Oprah: Six or seven miles a day?
Central Park Jogger: About that much.
Oprah: But at that point, a quarter of a mile was a huge accomplishment.
Central Park Jogger: I realized I was taking back something that had been taken away from me.
Oprah: Were you eventually able to run by the spot in Central Park where you were attacked?
Central Park Jogger: Yes. I was pretty sure it wouldn't bring up any memories, but I wanted to see. I went with a friend and I saw what I call the memorial [notes, flowers, and keepsakes from people who'd heard about the attack]. To see that just touched me, knowing that people had taken the time to show they cared.
Oprah: How soon was it before you went back to your job?
Central Park Jogger: Seven or eight months—and I stayed there until 1998.
Oprah: When you went back to work, did you feel awkward?
Central Park Jogger: My first day back was a half-day, and they had a little party for me. I was nervous because there were a lot of people in the office who I hadn't worked with, and I didn't know whether they'd be looking at me. But it was fine—I felt welcomed.