By MISSY CHAPMAN
Warsaw Community Public Library
I, like any other true crime aficionado, know the story of New Yorker, Kitty Genovese. The story goes that at 3:20 a.m. March 13, 1964, Genovese was walking to her apartment and was assaulted and repeatedly stabbed on the street with her cries of help being unanswered by 37 neighbors who didn’t want to get involved.
Her name became synonymous for urban indifference in the sixties. Her case also spawned many sociological studies to which the term “Bystander effect” was coined, meaning that the greater the number of people present, the less likely people are to help someone in distress.
In recent years most of us have learned that public opinion can and will be molded by the media and public officials! Kevin Cook’s book “Kitty Genovese: the murder, the bystanders, the crime that changed America” sets the record straight separating urban legend from fact.
Some 50 years later Cook informs us what the media didn’t, that none of the witnesses who came forward that night saw the entire attack and that almost all of them had no idea just how serious the situation was.
Of the 37 witnesses, only two claimed to have seen the attack, knew of its seriousness and did nothing. The others were only ear witnesses who weren’t even sure a crime had taken place. This is a far cry from the “37 who saw murder and did nothing” luridly reported in the New York Times.
After the infamous article made its appearance some four months after Genovese’s murder, New Yorkers became known as cold hearted individuals and that moniker followed them all the way til 9/11.
Cook did an excellent job of bringing Genovese to life and giving us a glimpse into her world. She was a spirited, attractive Italian girl who managed a bar in Queens, was highly competent, and possessed a winning personality. She shared her life with her partner Mary Ann Zielonko, whom she spent her weekends going to underground clubs with.
The true story of Genovese reminds me of a quote that has been attributed to Winston Churchill- “A lie gets half way around the world before the truth gets its pants on.”
If you’re interested in the factual story of Kitty and the tragedy that happened that night, then come in to Warsaw Community Public Library and pick up the book.