Remembering Attica

Thirty Years Later, the Story of America’s Worst Prison Riot Continues

We received $112 every two weeks—that was for myself, my sister, and my mother. After my father's funeral, my mother couldn't figure out why she was always ill. The doctor said, "I think we need to do a pregnancy test." Six weeks after my father was buried, my mother found out she was pregnant. So I have a sister who never knew her father.

Besides state officials, how did other people treat you in the wake of the rebellion? The community of Attica was amazing. People were very, very supportive. The other widows lived in Attica, so when we went to school we weren't alone. There were 11 families that lost their dads.

People from all over the world sent money into a fund for widows because they knew, in the 1970s, women didn't work. So who's going to help pay the bills? My mother tells me of a time when our furnace no longer worked. She went to this fund and got enough money to replace the furnace in our home.

photo: courtesy of Liz Fink

How many people are members of the Forgotten Victims of Attica? Maybe 50 to 70 people. We meet every Monday night, and at those meetings there are anywhere from 20 to 40 people. These are all survivors. They could be brothers and sisters of a slain correction officer. They could be relatives of a hostage.

We each have our own beliefs. [Some] people [say]: "The [state] troopers were right. They went in. They did their job. They didn't want to kill anybody." And you have people who say, "The troopers sucked. They wanted to kill everybody. They didn't give a rat's ass for anybody's life." I have family members who still think the guards were killed because the inmates slit their throats. But, you know, we're respectful of everybody's opinion.

What does your organization want? One of the things that our group wants more than any kind of money is [to be] acknowledged for who we are—people who got totally screwed out of this deal—and for the truth to be told.

The premiere of Ghosts of Attica, a documentary, will be held at the Museum of Television and Radio at 25 West 52nd Street on September 5 at 6 p.m. Afterward, there will be a panel discussion about the film, featuring Frank Smith and others. Call 212-621-6600 or visit

Ghosts of Attica will air on Court TV at 9 p.m. on September 9. The Killing Yard, starring Alan Alda and Morris Chestnut, will air on Showtime at 8 p.m. on September 23.

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