Mayor Bloomberg, go see this amazing lady ~ World Amazing Information, Facts & News

Mayor Bloomberg, go see this amazing lady

Posted by Rahul Doshi | 5/01/2008 07:57:00 PM | 0 comments »

Make it right, Mr. Mayor.

Take a moment this week to extend New York's best wishes to an uncommonly spirited woman left paralyzed in the crossfire between a cop and three gunmen 74 years ago, but who has yet to receive so much as a syllable of sympathy or a penny of support from her city.

The most innocent of bystanders, Leonora Tomasulo was Mayor Bloombergshot on her 16th birthday. The bullet remains lodged against her spine as she comes to her 90th this week.

"It's still in me," Tomasulo reported from her wheelchair yesterday.

She seems incapable of self-pity. Bitterness only edges into her voice when she describes what the city did for her in the aftermath.


Tomasulo turned 16 on that May day in 1934 and she was returning home with a strawberries and cream birthday cake she had bought with a dollar one of her sisters gave her.

She was starting onto Cherry St. when she heard gunfire. She saw Police Officer Arthur Rasmusen go down in front of her, fatally wounded, his gun blazing at a trio of thugs behind her.

"They held up a store for $25, a grocery store," Tomasulo recalled.

One stray bullet grazed the face of an off-duty detective's 10-month-old son. Another struck Tomasulo in the shoulder, tearing by her heart and lodging against her spine.

At Beekman Street Hospital, she was listed in extremely critical condition.

"They said I was going to die," Tomasulo recalled. "I told God, 'Please don't let me die.'"

She clung to life, but she was paralyzed from the waist down. She was transferred to Bellevue and was still in the intensive care as the holidays neared. She offered a full measure of her spirit when she started singing.

"Whoever heard of such a thing in the ICU unit?" her older sister Dora Pignanelli said as she sat with Tomasulo yesterday. "She's entertaining all the people there at Christmas. It gave them ..."

Pignanelli paused, searching for the right word.

"Courage," Tomasulo said. "I have a lot, thank God."

She needed all of it.

"I was in the hospital for five years," she noted.

When she was released from a rehabilitation center in Haverstraw, she was able to struggle about with a brace, crutches and pure will power, falling so often she got good at it.

"She fell a lot of times, but she fell easy," her sister said.

A good-hearted citizen gave her a wheelchair. The only thing the city ever gave her was an old hand-cranked sewing machine worth all of $1 so she could teach herself a trade and not be a burden.

Her luck took a good turn when a city worker named Louis Tomasulo chanced to see her by the entrance to her tenement. He announced that she was going to be his wife.

"Of course his mother didn't want him to marry a cripple," her sister recalled. "'He told his mother, 'If I don't marry that girl, I'm going to turn to drink.'"

They were married and if she still had a bullet lodged against her spine, she also had her Louis to help her. He died when he was not yet 60.

Her siblings continued to do all they could, as they had from the start, helping her live with the damage a single bullet can inflict.

"It's something nobody should go through," she said.

A moment of pure horror decades ago remained just a thought away.

"It always comes to me," she said.

Her great blessing continued to be her family. Fifty assorted relatives assembled for an early 90th birthday party at a Little Italy restaurant on Sunday.

She sang as she had in the ICU, as she had through all the years, good and bad. Her spirit was as young as on that day 74 years before when she turned 16. And she still loved birthday cake.

"What happened to the cake that was left over?" she asked at the end of Sunday's party. "It was so good I thought we'd take some home."

Leonora Tomasulo turns 90 on Sunday. The mayor should take a moment to say a few words that should have been said more than seven decades ago.


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