It was just one day before Halloween 10 years ago when a mother of two, Marion Hedges, set out to a shopping mall in East Harlem with her son to pick up some candy.
The haul wasn’t for trick-or-treaters headed to her own home. Instead, it was purchased with the intention of donating the candy to underserved communities. But that plan, as well as everything else about Hedges’ life, changed in a split second as she exited the plaza.
Two 12-year-old boys who’d been playing on the mall walkway four floors above her pushed a shopping cart over the edge, where it fell more than 70 feet before crashing down on top of Hedges and just missing her son.
“I broke all my ribs and my collarbones, and my heart stopped beating,” she recalled in a sit-down with TODAY’s Sheinelle Jones, her first interview since the life-changing event.
Hedges also suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of the incident and was placed in a medically induced coma after arriving at a nearby hospital. It took weeks for her to regain consciousness and far longer than that to relearn how to even swallow and read again.
Despite still struggling with double vision, memory loss and PTSD, she explained, “I’ve said to many people how lucky I am and how lucky my son was.”
But those people don’t see it the same way.
“My friends have said, ‘What do you mean, Marion? You’re not lucky. What happened to you is not lucky,’” she shared. “I said, ‘No, I am the luckiest unlucky lady in the world.’”
And she means it, even as she continues to navigate ongoing difficulties, like “emotional regulation problems,” which she says prevent her from crying or laughing or having any “highs or lows.”
As for the boys who caused her profound injuries, they pleaded guilty to assault charges and were sentenced to less than two years each in juvenile facilities. Since that time, Hedges says they’ve never reached out to her.
And she’s never forgiven them — though that’s not due to any resentment.
“I don’t think about forgiveness because forgiveness means that I had a negative energy begin with,” she told Sheinelle. “And I don’t.”
Instead, she added that she hopes “those young boys can find something to do to make a difference.” Because even after everything that she’s been through, that’s still what she wants to do, too.
For instance, Hedges recently founded a new nonprofit endeavor with a name inspired by Halloween candies, called Sweet Returns. It’s aimed at helping underprivileged teens in a variety of ways.
“We’re going to have after-school educational programs, mentoring and really help them to make good decisions in life,” she said of the organization’s mission.
Now, though she has her good and bad days, Hedges says she’s proud of how far she’s come.
“Some days, I’d like to stay in bed, the covers up,” she said. “But the reality is, it’s a beautiful day. Get going. I have (been) chosen to live for a reason. There must be a reason. So I choose life and I enjoy it.”