(Vatican Radio) Elizabeth Bettina Nicolosi puts everything down to a “miracle”. A miracle and a series of coincidences which saved her life after a brutal mugging in New York City one night before Christmas last year. In an apparent theft-turned- attempted murder, a man had followed her home and viciously attacked her in the vestibule downstairs. Elizabeth and her two rescuer-Good Samaritans, Jonny Lennon and Ashley Aversano, attended the Mass at Santa Marta and met Pope Francis on Tuesday. They shared their story with Tracey McClure:
“I think that this is all a miracle – it’s unbelievable how this all happened,” says Elizabeth. “I am so lucky that when I was being beaten for five minutes in the vestibule of my building, people who did not know me came down from the fifth floor and saved my life and they are the ultimate Good Samaritans and I couldn’t think of a better way to say thank you for saving my life than having this lovely couple that’s engaged to be married, to have them meet Pope Francis. The world needs more good stories of people sticking their necks out for others, no matter what”.
She says she had the opportunity to meet Pope Francis and introduce him to her two Good Samaritans and show him a photograph of her as she recovered in a New York hospital after the attack. “He sort of did a ‘wow’ and stepped back. When you see that picture, it was pretty bad”.
Jonny explains that he had been due to be out of town for a meeting on the evening of the attack but he “had a weird feeling that day that I didn’t want to leave – I didn’t want to leave [Ashley] alone in the building. … I got this weird feeling and just said, ‘I’m not going to go’”.
The couple planned to leave on holiday the next day and as they were sitting at the table folding laundry, they heard loud banging and thudding coming from downstairs. “We decided it was probably the kids downstairs; they watch football, they’re always screaming.. so we walked back into our apartment and then we hear some more screaming”, Jonny said. “So I said, I’m just going to stick my head out real fast, one more time and I hear a giant thump (so ) I said, that’s not a normal… it sounded violent. It sounded like a violent scuffle”.
So he decided to go down to investigate; Ashley, calling 911, was shortly after him. “I just said, I’ve got to get downstairs, somebody’s in trouble” Jonny recalled. The scene before him was macabre – blood everywhere. Elizabeth bruised and moaning on the ground, her assailant with fists raised. The man fled.
Both Jonny and Elizabeth’s fathers were firemen. “Maybe it’s somewhere in that DNA – you know you’re supposed to help someone else”, says Elizabeth, reflecting on the coincidences that brought the couple to her rescue and on how her own Dad used to talk about his work at the dinner table. “That’s what they do for a livelihood. They help strangers that they don’t know.”
Saying that he and Ashley have grown in their faith in recent times, and knowing that intervening to help would put his own life in danger, Jonny put his faith in God to protect him. “There were so many thoughts in that one second: you’re going to be protected – just go! It was a faith-based ‘go for it’”.
Making the world a better place
“I can’t thank both Jonny and Ashley enough for not… being bystanders and for saving my life because according to New York City police,” Elizabeth added, the assailant “was never going to stop … he kept saying ‘I’m going to kill you’. My hope is that this story can be insightful for others: to not to be a bystander in life and to do something for others – whether it’s risking your life – Jonny was totally risking his life by coming into the vestibule to save mine. Or just helping someone with a package. If we just treat each other with a bit of kindness, the world is a better place.”