While she may have been able to defend herself and treat her assailant to his own medicine, the incident left her "traumatized."
On 17 March 2021, 76-year-old Xiao Zhen Xie had been waiting at a traffic signal in San Francisco when she was suddenly attacked by a man who yelled "Chinese" before punching her. But she didn't let the assault go unanswered. Using a stick, she paid her attacker back in kind and ended up leaving him with injuries so severe that he needed to be taken to a hospital, according to CBS News.
At the scene of the crime, the heroic grandmother had been holding an ice pack to her face as the police arrived. Her daughter, Dong-Mei Li, said: "She found the stick around the area and fought back." CBS San Francisco Sports Director Dennis O'Donnell happened to be there at the moment and told CBS San Fancisco, "There was a guy on a stretcher and a frustrated angry woman with a stick in her hand. From what I could see, she wanted more of the guy on the stretcher and the police were holding her back."
A video that captured the scene reveals the suspect being handcuffed to a stretcher with blood all over his face. By this point, Xiao was sobbing while hurling insults at the man as he was being taken away. "You bum, why did you hit me?" she screamed in Chinese. Turning to the crowd, she repeated, "This bum, he hit me," as she raised her stick. "He hit me, this bum."
Just came upon an attack on an elderly Asian woman on Market Street San Francisco. Effort I got more details pic.twitter.com/5o8r0eeHE2— Dennis O'Donnell (@DennisKPIX) March 17, 2021
Though she was able to fight back, the incident left the septuagenarian traumatized. Speaking from her senior retirement home and her daughter translating, she told CBS San Francisco, "Very traumatized, very scared and this eye is still bleeding. The right eye still cannot see anything and (is) still bleeding and we have something to absorb the bleeding." John Chen, Xiao's grandson, agreed that his grandmother "is extremely terrified. She's terrified to even step out."
Xiao, who had been a resident of the city for 26 years, is the latest victim in the string of attacks against East Asian-Americans in the past few weeks. Ever since the Atlanta shooting, where six East Asian American women were shot to death, more and more news of similar hate crimes have been reported. In fact, on the day of the grandmother's assault, another elderly East Asian man had also been attacked. At the moment, the 39-year-old suspect is being questioned regarding both incidents and authorities are trying to determine if race and bias were the motives. According to CBS SF, crimes against South-East Asian Americans shot to 150% in 2020 due to the pandemic, even though hate crimes saw a decline in general.
In order to support Xiao, the family set up a GoFundMe page to help raise money to help with her medical expenses; so far, almost $880,000 has been raised surpassing the original $50,000 goal. On the page, John wrote, "She (Xiao) is now suffering two serious black eyes and one that is bleeding unstoppable. Her wrist has also swelled up. She has been severely affected mentally, physically, and emotionally. She also stated that she is afraid to step out of her home from now on. This traumatic event has left her with PTSD. My heart is with all the other elderly Asians that have also been seriously injured or killed in this wave of attacks towards the Asian community."
Posting an update, he spoke about how much the incident affected his grandmother. "Whenever the issue is brought up to her, she gets extremely emotional and starts crying," he wrote. "We have to constantly calm her down and comfort her from her PTSD. She is still really dizzy and can only eat porridge. Our biggest fear is her unstable mental health. During our visit she constantly repeated the phrase 'I’m so scared, I’m so scared' in Cantonese. She was having a mental breakdown, and she constantly needs to take medication to control her heart rate so it doesn’t get out of hand."
Cover image source: GoFundMe | Help my grandmother recover from this trauma