NEW YORK (CBS 2) — It has been 33 years since the fateful day that Renee Katz made headlines for all of the wrong reasons. Katz, 17 at the time, was a talented flute player getting ready for college.
“I was studying ‘King Lear’ on the train and I fell asleep, and I missed my stop and I just got out and waited for the train at the next connecting stop, and as I was waiting somebody pushed me from behind onto the tracks,” she told CBS 2’s Amy Dardashtian during a recent exclusive interview.
As an incoming train sped into the station Katz said she instinctively rolled left.
“The train went over me, I remember screaming for my mother, and that I wanted to go to college,” she said.
Katz survived the incident, but the train severed her right hand.
CBS 2’s cameras were there as police recovered the hand from the tracks and rushed it to the hospital. It took 16 hours of surgery for doctors to re-attach it.
“I don’t remember, and I don’t want to remember him. I don’t remember. I couldn’t see who pushed me,” she told CBS 2 not long after the incident.
“They thought they caught the individual, but they didn’t have enough evidence because I was very honest. I didn’t see his face,” Katz said recently.
The attack happened at 50th Street and Eighth Avenue, just a few blocks from the station where a man was pushed into the path of an oncoming train last week.
The death of Ki-Suck Han paralyzed New Yorkers, the same way that Katz’s story did in 1979.
Her attack highlighted a lack of security on subways, prompting new police patrols of subway cars and platforms and signaled a historic change in subway safety. But that change did not prevent six more people from being pushed in front of trains in the 1990s.
“There are things I wish we could do like have rails, and then if we kept better track of people who are mentally ill there would be more programs for them,” said Katz, who now works as an occupational therapist.
“When I work with my patients I try to get them to concentrate not on what they’ve lost, but what they have, ’cause no matter what you lose there is always something deep inside you that you can develop,” she said.
Although Katz could never play the flute again after her attack, she rediscovered music and became an acclaimed cabaret singer, a poet, and a pianist — all part of a journey meant to inspire others.
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