UNDER ATTACK

 

Wrapped in a headscarf’s colorful and silky folds, she finds comfort in her modesty. For her, the wrap is a constant reminder that God is with her all the time. It makes her feel secure, she said, even when Triceten Bickford’s hands were wrapped around her neck.

On a Saturday evening, the Bloomington, IN resident was drinking tea outside of Sofra Café. Her nine-year-old daughter sat on her left. Bickford had been drinking something much stronger. The 19-year-old Indiana University student was stumbling toward an ice cream shop when he caught sight of the woman’s light blue scarf. Abruptly, he changed directions.

As he neared the café, he began to yell. 

“White power.”

The woman, who is Caucasian, is an immigrant from Turkey. She said she paid the man no mind until seconds later when he gripped her throat from behind and pushed her face into the cold wire table. Terrified but filled with adrenaline, the 47-year-old woman reared back and stood so she could be seen through the café’s window.

But before the diners inside could react, she felt Bickford being pulled off her back. “What are you, stupid?” she heard a new voice say.

Turning, she saw another stranger, Daniel Boyes, lying on the sidewalk. The 21-year-old IU junior was restraining her thrashing attacker. Boyes had been walking down Walnut Street on the way to a friend’s dance performance. He had never been in a fight in his life, but when he saw Bickford approach the woman, he didn’t hesitate to act.

“I never would have imagined doing that,” Boyes said. “It was surreal that I was doing that to somebody.” The woman’s husband rushed out of the door. He turned red with rage as he helped Boyes hold Bickford down.

“I’m going to kill you all,” the woman remembers Bickford, who was later identified as a sophomore psychology major, shouting. Flailing on the sidewalk, he kicked the air and spat in her husband’s face.

When the cops arrived, Bickford bit one officer’s calf and tried to kick out the windows of the police car. Through all of the commotion, the nine-year-old girl clung to the restaurant’s railing. “I couldn’t help you, mommy,” she said through tears. “I'm sorry I couldn’t help you.”

Three days later, Bickford has been arrested and released. After being charged with minor possession and consumption of alcohol, intimidation, public intoxication, strangulation and three counts of battery, he paid $705 and walked out of the Monroe County Jail. 

The woman’s young daughter hasn’t been able to fall asleep before three o’clock in the morning. On Monday she stayed home from school, afraid the man might find her again. The woman has that fear too. As TV cameras and journalists flood into the restaurant, she requests that her identity and profession be kept private for security concerns. Reporters aren’t the only people at the scene of the crime. A steady stream of friends and strangers file through the café Monday to munch on baklava and gyros, hug the woman and show her that this act of aggression doesn’t represent Bloomington.

A pregnant black woman, an elderly white man, a young student and several women wearing headscarves of their own line up in front of the counter. One mother, who also has a nine-year-old, brought flowers.

 “I’m okay,” the woman told a crying friend, holding the young woman's face in her hands. “You are so wonderful.”

The woman said when she thinks of Bickford, she feels bad for his mother. She herself has five children, all of whom were born in the United States. The family came to Bloomington more than a decade ago when her husband began his Ph.D. studies at Indiana University.

“I’ve tried to teach my kids to be very good people,” she said. “I’m sure she wanted her son to be a very good person. I’m not going to think she raised him like that.” As the lunch hour comes to a peak in the café, another stranger enters carrying a small box and a card. When the woman opens the package, a lightweight scarf tumbles from her fingers. Dainty pink, yellow and blue flowers are stitched in a wreath around a white center.

“Dear Bloomingtonian,” the card reads. “Enclosed is a scarf given to me by my mother. Now I am giving it to you. May you always feel surrounded by love.”

Once again, a headscarf brings the woman comfort. When she wears it, she'll have a constant reminder that God isn’t the only one there to keep her safe.

By Annie Garau