Kitty Genovese, a 28-year old bar manager, was returning to her home in a middle-class area of Queens at 3:00 am. According to the NY Times report, she parked her car and began to walk to her second floor apartment just 35 yards away. But a man grabbed her under the glare of a street light.
Genovese screamed. The man stabbed her. “Oh, my God,” She yelled. “He stabbed me! Please help me!”
Lights went on. Windows opened. A man shouted, “Let that girl alone!” The assailant looked up. Shrugged. And walked-off down the street.
As Kitty Genovese struggled to get up, windows shut. Lights went out. People returned to bed. And a city bus drove by.
Somehow Genovese made it to the stairs of her apartment building. But the attacker returned. He stabbed her again, as she cried out, “I’m dying! I’m dying!” This time it was fatal. No one called police until she was dead.
Originally the story was not widely reported until metro Times editor, A. M. Rosenthal, had lunch was the Police Commissioner, Michael Murphy, who told him many people had witnessed the murder. And no one called for help.
“I didn’t want to get involved,” one neighbor is quoted as saying. Another said he was too tired to call police and went back to bed. One lady sheepishly said that she didn’t want her husband to get involved. Others sheepishly said they were afraid.
Rosenthal assigned a reporter, Martin Gansberg, to pursue the story. It ran on the front page with this headline.
37 WHO SAW MURDER DIDN’T CALL THE POLICE
Apathy at Stabbing of Queens Woman Shocks Inspector
As we would say today, the story went viral. Several books were written about the case and the psychology of people who failed to help the murdered woman. While some of the “facts” of the original Times account has been disputed, 50 years later it has renewed interest. Two more books are being released and a film maker is working on a documentary about Genovese called “The Witness.”
This whole sordid affair seems to speak to the apathy of people. Indifference toward the hurting. Unconcern for a dying woman. Lack of personal responsibility. Callousness. An urban breakdown of an uncaring society.
As I reflect on the sad anniversary of this murder , here are a few thoughts for your reflection.
(1) Society didn’t kill Kitty Genovese. Neither did New Yorkers. One man did. His name was Winston Moseley. He was a criminal. A rapist. A murderer. An evil man. He told police that he had been driving around looking for someone to kill. He’s still serving a life-sentence today for his crimes.
Too often the media and sociologists use society to either shift blame for evil actions, or excuse bad behavior. Moseley was responsible. Accountable. Answerable for his actions. Just like we all are. The Bible says that we must all give account for the deeds done in the body whether good or bad (2 Cor 5:10).
(2) Evil continues to exist. In 1964 there were 636 murders in New York City. In 2013 there were a record low 333 murders. Yet, wickedness reigns in our fallen world. The Devil is alive and works in the hearts of evil people. Jesus said, “ For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matt 15:19).
(3) Apathy impacts all of us. Regardless of how many witnesses saw Kitty Genovese’s murder, it is chilling to think no one cared enough to call for help. This story speaks to the importance of the second great commandment, Love your neighbor as yourself.” And it reminds us of Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. The moral: Your neighbor is anyone hurting on life’s highway who you can help.
(4) Society’s real need is the Gospel. Stricter gun laws, more police presence, tougher prison sentences and real a crack-down on crime, may lower the number of murders, but it won’t save souls. Only Jesus can do that.
Christ calls us to Him. To the Father. To the His love. To the cross. To His cleansing blood. In obedience to Jesus we will find forgiveness, enjoy peace, and live in hope of a better world.
Only the Gospel can eradicate evil. One person at a time.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman