I worked as a floral designer in a flower shop in Detroit. I loved my job. I also loved the idea of getting paid to have fun. On March 24, 1977 two men entered the shop. One of the men produced a 45-caliber pistol and said if we cooperated, we would be unharmed. They took the money from the cash register and our wallets. In all it totaled no more than $120. After all it was 11:00 on a Thursday morning, and we did mostly phone / credit card orders anyway. They tied us up in three different areas of the store. The other man drew a hatchet from under his coat and proceeded to use it on the storeowner and then his son. Then he turned to me. I was praying to God to let me live. This made him angry. He told me to stop, kicking me in the ribs, but I kept on praying. He then tried to knock me out by hitting me twice in the back of the head with the butt of the hatchet. Finally, he took the blade to my neck in an attempt to remove my head. Thanks to the grace of God, the hatchet was new and not very sharp. Also, the blade struck my necklace. The necklace was one that I made myself and consisted of sliver beads strung on a thin but very strong wire. The terror I felt during this experience is beyond words, but my faith in God got me through it.
After the robbers left the store, the owner's son, even though severely injured, managed to free him self and stagger out of the store for help. Two off duty police officers just happened to be passing by and saw him. The ambulance came and took away the storeowner and his son, but no one noticed me lying in the flower garbage behind the counter. A woman from a business down the street, asked about the "pretty little girl" that also worked in the shop. The police went back in and found me. One of the Officers pronounced me dead, but much to his surprise; I turned my head and groaned. The quickly wrapped a dirty flower towel around my neck placed me in the back of a police car and raced me to the hospital.
I arrived at the hospital with no blood pressure. I had a deep laceration on the left side of my neck through all layers of muscle to the skull and a depressed skull fracture. At this point I could move all extremities. Later swelling "crushed" my spinal column and I was completely paralyzed from the neck down.
Sometime before reaching the hospital, I believe that I died. I went to a truly beautiful place. I felt such peace, free from all stress and worry. I was greeted by several glowing beings that communicated with me without words. They told me that I had to go back, because I was not finished. Thus God worked his first miracle in my life -- he let me live.
I never was able to make a full recovery. I had partial paralysis on her left side and significant muscle weakness on the right side. But I could walk short distances with the aid of a cane and used a wheel chair or scooter for “shopping” trips. I soon learned how to drive and in 1978, bought my first new car.
I was moved to the Rehabilitation Institute in Detroit, where she spent 4 long months struggling to build muscle and regain movement. I first learned to eat with the aid of a “slinky” attached to my arm. I ended up with more food on me than in me. Later I also learned to bath and dress myself. In the end I kept my promise and walked out of the rehab.
I still needed a great deal of care and years of therapy. At first I could only walk 10 feet without tiring and fell at least 10 times a day. My sister, Marian, delayed starting college one year to help her mother care for me. Both my brother, Matt and Marian helped me exercise and stretch every day.
My injuries were severe; I was completely paralyzed from the neck down. I spent a month in Mount Carmel Mercy Hospital recovering where the doctors had no hope for me of ever getting much movement back. However, I told the doctors I was going to walk out of the hospital! Thanks to the prayers of many from Churches all over Detroit, I did began get some movement back.
Paul is no longer with us after a long battle with MS, but we had a few of years of fellowship with him. Paul told me they called her the "pretty, young girl". The description of one of the perpetrators was a little unusual, so Paul figured that he would be caught in a few days. They actively worked the case for years, bringing in every known criminal in the district for questioning.
Michelle has never dwelled on the fact that her attackers were never caught. Even though it is hard to believe, she actually forgave them. This allowed her to focus on her recovery, the next part of the story.
The first question often asked when hearing Michelle's story is "Did they catch the people who did this?" The answer is no. In 2001 I had a chance meeting with one of the Detroit Police officers which worked on my case. His name was Paul J. Fitzgerald.