The Eleventh Hour – The Tragic Death Of Kitty Genovese

March 13th, 2014 by Magdalena Tabor

My route to work each day places me in its direct path, whizzes by most times, stops and lingers for passengers at others. kitty genoveseUsually I don’t think about it, but at moments I still do, especially when the past is once again dredged up by yet another news article. But it deserves dredging up. It must not be ignored as Kitty’s cries were 50 years ago today.
The Kew Gardens Long Island railroad station is infamous for the murder of Kitty Genovese that took place on March 13, 1964. An area long associated with my past, I am thoroughly familiar with the surrounding fabric of the neighborhood, with the nightmare now interwoven into an underlying muted shade of gray. I remember when it happened. I was still quite young and yet it made an indelible impression, carried into the years afterward hanging out with friends. The whisperings of “It was right here……..on that spot” still induces tingles on the nerves of my scalp whenever I think of it. The back alley, somewhat secluded then, now inhabits an inviting Irish coffee shop and cozy pub frequented by many. What happened then seems the stuff of myth or legend.
I won’t repeat the details of the event. There are numerous articles to be found that were written at the time and continue to surface today. In essence, Kitty Genovese was murdered this day at 3:15 am upon returning home from her job as manager at (ironically) Ev’s Eleventh Hour Sports Bar. She was 29 years old.
Kitty parked her car in the railroad station parking lot and began the short walk home to an apartment she shared with a friend. She never made it. She was stabbed twice and stumbled into the back entrance of her building which was locked. Her screams for help were largely ignored by at least a dozen people. The attacker fled only to return and trace her steps to finish what he had begun. Unspeakable acts, random, inhuman, and so very very senseless.
Only one neighbor whose name bears mentioning, Sophia Farrar, bravely stepped forward and held the dying woman in her arms until the ambulance that was finally summoned came to her aid. Kitty died enroute to the hospital. It was 4:15. This horrific sequence of events took place within the hour.
Chilling testimonies from those who heard or witnessed portions of the attack but failed to respond prompted psychological research on the “bystander effect” and Kitty’s case has become a textbook classic used in social psychology. It also sparked the 911 system and enacted “Good Samaritan” laws for the legal protection of people who assist those in trouble.
It’s interesting to note that 10 years after Kitty’s demise, 25 year old Sandra Zahler was beaten to death on Christmas morning in an apartment overlooking the Genovese crime scene. Again, neighbors who heard the sreams did nothing. One might ask “Who was Kitty Genovese?” A better one to ask would be “Who are we?”

So……………..whadayathink? Have we learned anything as a society about getting involved in a cry for help? Where’s the compassion? All they had to do was pick up the phone.

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3 Responses to “The Eleventh Hour – The Tragic Death Of Kitty Genovese”

  1. chipster Says:

    Such a well written piece. What do I think?…………….Sadly, that if we listen to the news or read the papers it just goes to prove that nothing has changed. Senseless violence existed then, as it does now. When will humanity step up and get past the “I don’t want to get involved” mindset. It’s pathetic.

  2. Michael Tabor Says:

    You bet, Chipster – what a masterfully written essay !!!

    I remember seeing a made for TV movie based on this unspeakable tragedy when I was just a kid back in the mid 1970’s. Even when I was in college there were so many different courses in which the case was brought up and discussed e.g. journalism, sociology, business law, psychology…. How could this possibly happen ? How can scores of regular, average, law – abiding, solid citizens be so craven so as to not get involved and turn a blind eye on such a vicious act of violence: I mean this woman was hunted down twice, raped, robbed and stabbed over and over and over again for a length of time of approximately 30 minutes – UNCONSCIONABLE !!!

  3. magdalena Says:

    Thank you both. Recently I’ve been reading some conflicting reports that what they say happened is not the way it really was, that there were some people who tried to intervene, but in my estimation they didn’t try hard enough. It took too long for an ambulance to finally arrive. I think the problem is that everyone thinks someone else will get involved but how in God’s name can you bear to not do anything? The brother of this poor slain woman will be coming out with a documentary for the anniversary of her death. It should be interesting to learn the family’s perspective but incredibly sad.

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