The mother who was sexually assaulted at gunpoint in front of her children while cross-country skiing last week in a south Minneapolis park has a message for her neighbors:
Come out this week, she wrote Sunday on an online neighborhood site, to celebrate the Powderhorn Park area where the attack took place and help residents take back the neighborhood, which has seen several acts of violence this month.
"Celebrate our riches," the unidentified 45-year-old woman, who signed her statement "The 'Mother' in the News," wrote in support of organizers putting together two gatherings this week.
Her comments, in part a thank-you note to police and those who have supported her and her family, were posted via a friend on a message board on E-Democracy.org dedicated to the Powderhorn Park area.
"We survived," she wrote of her ordeal. "We're blessed with an abundance of support and love. ... Wow, what a great neighborhood we live in."
Last week, four teenage boys were arrested on suspicion of having sexually attacked her in the park and, in a separate assault, two teenage girls in a nearby garage.
Earlier this month, a 12-year-old girl standing on her porch in the Powderhorn neighborhood was shot in the neck and possibly paralyzed for life.
Those crimes prompted residents and members of the Powderhorn Park Neighborhood Association to plan a rally this Wednesday and a brainstorming session Thursday, to make the area safer.
"Everybody had the idea simultaneously -- let's reclaim this park," Molly Priesmeyer, an organizer, said Sunday.
Wednesday's event, exactly one week after last week's attack on the woman, will be at the northeast corner of the park, at 32nd Street and 14th Avenue S., at 7:30 p.m.
Instead of grief and outrage, participants have been asked to "bring music, art, puppets, laughter, hope and food," Priesmeyer wrote in an e-mail announcing the gathering.
That sentiment was echoed by the mother, who was cross-country skiing with her 10-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter when they were accosted.
"I would love it if people came out to sing, dance, ski, sled, play Frisbee," the mother wrote in her posting. "Let's make it a celebration of our community and our park."
The four arrested boys -- from 14 to 16 years old -- are also being held in the sexual attacks on the girls who were attacked after the assault on the woman. The suspects are likely to face charges that include rape, aggravated robbery and false imprisonment, police said.
A remarkable statement
In her posting, the assaulted woman said she and her family are committed to the area.
"I want to tell you that my children and I are doing quite well," she wrote, "considering that we had a gun held to our chests only three days ago."
She said she and her family are forgiving of the suspects, not much older than her children. "I guess I might fall into despair, hopelessness and hatred sometime along my healing journey, but I can honestly say I don't experience them right now," she wrote. "My spiritual practices ground me in love and possibility."
She noted that on Thanksgiving Day, the day after the attack, her son told her how he felt sorry for their assailants because they were in jail and would not be able to have the kind of fun life he has now.
"I'm pretty amazed at his compassion and understanding," she wrote. "I have a lot to learn from my kids about staying in touch with what really matters in life. We sure got a profound lesson in having gratitude for just being alive.
"And don't worry," she wrote. "They have quickly fallen back to their habits of bickering with each other, which I see as a sure sign they are moving on and getting back to normalcy."
Not the first attacks
The sexual assault on the mother, who said she did not wish to be constantly labeled as a victim, is not the first in recent years within the 68-acre park, which runs from 10th to 15th Avenues S. between Powderhorn Terrace and E. 35th Street.
In August 2009, two girls, ages 13 and 15, reported they had been sexually assaulted by two strangers while walking in the park at 10:30 at night.
In July 2009, a 22-year-old woman reported a man pushed her down and assaulted her as she walked in the park near 10th Avenue S. and 32nd Street E. about 10 p.m.
"This is a very engaged, creative community," said Priesmeyer. "I think the victim's statement and the Powderhorn community response is testament to the neighborhood."
The attack on the mother came about two weeks after Guadalupe Hernandez, 12, was shot in the neck. The Nov. 12 shooting left her paralyzed and fighting for life at Hennepin County Medical Center.
Powderhorn Park residents ask those attending the vigil and the meeting this week to contribute to the Hernandez family to help with expenses.
Powderhorn association officials also want to meet with police to get updates on crime in their neighborhood and to talk about this month's attacks.
"I think we are all in shock," Priesmeyer said. "It was a very brazen attack. It does give me pause, but it doesn't break me; it doesn't make me afraid to live in this community."
Heron Marquez Estrada • 952-707-9994