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'I Am the Central Park Jogger' by Trisha Meili

Central Park jogger writes movingly of her ordeal

Sunday, April 13, 2003

By Bob Hoover, Post-Gazette Book Editor

After Trisha Meili met her publicity obligations to NBC-TV last week, the reading public finally got its opportunity to encounter the story of the "Central Park Jogger's" intense struggle in her own words.

"I Am the
Central Park Jogger"

By Trisha Meili




Scribner released the book Monday after her network appearances.

With this memoir, perhaps we can drop that label and deal with the real person who was brutalized near death on April 19, 1989, and made her way back to a productive life.

That is a relief after all the hype that threatened to overshadow Meili's personal story, told here with a mixture of detachment and sincerity.

She began the book project before her case became major news again last year when new evidence forced a New York judge to overturn the convictions of five men in her assault.

The development did not deter her from her goal: to write about how she "reclaimed" her life.

"My book was about something I did, not what was done to me," the 42-year-old writes.

Her recovery from massive brain injury -- although she still has difficulties -- is remarkable, but what endures from her experience is the equally massive response from thousands of people who offered her support.

The response began shortly after she was found in Manhattan's fabled park covered in blood and mud, her skull smashed, her body violated. It was as though Meili had been attacked by a wild animal.

"At [the hospital], when my life was at its most precarious, thousands of people prayed for me," Meili writes. "Unknown to me, this was happening all over. ... Did the prayers and the good wishes and the spiritual kinship of strangers create an actual force that surrounded me and helped me recover? I believe so."

What also helped was an army of specialists -- neurologists, plastic surgeons, therapists both physical and psychiatric, private nurses and rehabilitation experts at a private facility.

Her former employer, Salomon Brothers, footed much of the costs, kept her on the payroll and welcomed her back.

Her parents and siblings provided the emotional support of a loving family. Her friends were loyal and diligent.

Meili takes none of this help for granted and is generous in her gratitude.

She also makes some clearly painful admissions about her own character -- goal-driven, obsessed with exercise and thinness, wedded to a career making money for the wealthy and willing to shelve her altruistic impulses.

Meili is a graduate of Upper St. Clair High School. She was born in New Jersey and moved to the Pittsburgh area in the 1970s when her father was transferred by the old Westinghouse company.

Fortunately, her superb physical condition and goal-orientation were key factors in her recovery.

In many ways, Meili is not very different from the bright young things with Ivy League degrees who flocked to New York in the 1980s, the "Bonfire of the Vanities" generation.

Her rehabilitation included years of psychotherapy, but she still seems uncomfortable and removed from her emotional life. Her best moments have come in her work with rape victims and people recovering from head injury.

Inspiring others in their recovery appears to be her role in what she calls her "second life." She has made a good start with this book.

Meili will discuss her book at Carnegie Library Lecture Hall, Oakland, at 7 p.m. April 17. The event is free and open to all.

Bob Hoover can be reached at bhoover@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1634.

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