Filipina still coping with impact of unprovoked assault in Brooklyn
NEW YORK – Three months before chef Cecille Lai and her son were attacked on March 2 by three car-riding youths in Queens, Milagros Dela Cruz Llamas, 70, had an almost identical experience in Brooklyn.
On December 19, 2022, six days before Christmas, she was on the platform of York Street Station near the Brooklyn Bridge at around 8 p.m. She was preparing to take four flights of stairs to go up and walk to her employer’s apartment three blocks down. She walked past an empty police station booth when a “big black guy” pushed her as he passed by. He pushed her so hard Milagros – known as “Tita Miles” in the Filipino community in New York – was knocked down and landed on the station platform. She was lucky to be carrying a backpack that cushioned her back and head from what could have been a perilous fall on the concrete platform.
“I was shaken, terribly shaken. I was trembling,” she said.
The man did not say anything and continued to walk away. There were people on the platform, waiting for the F Train, who witnessed what had happened. Milagros was grateful to two MTA women workers who came to her aid. They helped her going up the stairs as they called 911. They stayed with her until 911 came. One of the women took a photo of the attacker as he was walking away and was able to capture only his back. Milagros said the MTA woman with the camera was also trembling, fearful the man might return. Looking back, she suspected the man may have intended to push her down the tracks. But she was lucky there were train riders who served as barriers.
“The big black guy shoved me so hard. He’s tall. All I remember is his shiny jacket,” she said when reached by The FilAm.
York Street Station where the crime happened. Photo: Unsplash
NYPD crime investigators arrived on the scene and took her statement. Milagros declined to seek medical assistance. “I told 911 I could walk, I’m OK. I just want my son to be there.”
Son, Temi, who works as a medical assistant, arrived not too long after and found his mom at her employer’s apartment three blocks away. “When I reached the apartment, I felt I didn’t have any bruises. The backpack protected my back and my head,” she said.
That same evening, Temi took her to the emergency room of Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital where Milagros has her medical records. The CT Scan showed she suffered “mild fracture of sacrum,” a spine condition that has yet to fully heal.
“I felt achy all over after I was discharged but I had no bruises,” she said.
Asked if she thought the assault was triggered by the suspect’s anti-Asian sentiment, Milagros gave an emphatic “yes.”
“That was the first thing that came to mind,” she said. “Look at me, I look Chinese, and I’m small,” she said. “My son said I look fragile.”
“When I was in the ER, I was thinking, Why me?” she said musing how an act of violence was committed against a woman who was simply on her way to work. Then she remembered all the Filipino women who were similarly attacked under different circumstances — on the way to church, while riding a subway, coming out of a restaurant, leaving the Philippine Center.
Milagros made sure she had a normal Christmas with her family a week later. She cooked some Christmas dishes and tried to put on a cheerful face. “I cooked despite the aches I was feeling. The doctor said it’s best to be mobile.” When she was well enough, she called a couple of close friends to unburden.
It’s been three months and Milagros has not taken the subway since the incident. She now works for a new family in Gramercy; she is a baby nurse. Temi takes her to work and picks her up in the family car.
Her advice to women? “Vigilance. Anti-Asian hate is still very much around.” She offered this reminder to all women of her age. “I was targeted because I was Asian.”
Her assault remains an open case and is under investigation by the Brooklyn Transit Police.