By Kathianne Boniello
Armed with hope and honesty Detective Steven McDonald spoke last week to more than 40 students at St. Anastasia’s school in Douglaston presenting the story of his nearly-fatal 1986 shooting as a message about forgiveness.
McDonald, paralyzed from the neck down since 1986 when he was shot in the head by a teenager in Central Park, regularly visits precincts and schools around the city to tell his story.
Speaking to the school’s sixth, seventh and eighth grade students in the church, McDonald told the youngsters about his injuries, hospital stays, his family’s prayers for his survival and his efforts to forgive the teenager who shot him.
“A lot of people didn’t understand that,” said McDonald, who is confined to a wheelchair. “Why I would forgive him for doing this terrible thing. I believe prayers were answered in this way: that I was able to love that young man in a special way, to forgive him.”
The officer, who was promoted to the rank of detective by former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, described the shooting that paralyzed him in detail.
McDonald was a rookie cop in July 1986 when he approached three teens in Central Park to question them about a stolen bicycle.
“I watched the flair of the gun jump out towards me,” he said. “As I laid on the ground, he shot me a third time. I was in a lot of pain.”
The next several days were spent in different hospitals as doctors tried to save his life and family and friends prayed and cried, McDonald said, fearing the worst.
“That’s what life was like for a year and a half,” he said.
McDonald told his young audience, who were rapt with attention, that he hoped his story of forgiveness could serve as an example for them.
“I hope some of you will remember my story of forgiveness so that if you are touched by violence, you can forgive, too,” he said.
St. Anastasia Principal Joann Dolan said McDonald’s message of nonviolence and forgiveness was important for all students to learn, but especially significant for Catholics during Lent. Lent is a 40-day period preceding Easter when Catholics remember the importance of sacrifice and forgiveness.
“He tells about nonviolence and faith and forgiveness. What better inspiration is there?” she said.
Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.