If a stranger brutally injured you, would you show mercy to your attacker? Victoria Ruvolo did exactly that in October, 2005, at the sentencing of Ryan Cushing, a 19-year-old whose "prank" had nearly killed her.
Ruvolo, 45, of Lake Ronkonkoma, New York, was on her way to hear her niece sing in a recital when her car passed Cushing's. He was riding with five other teens who had just gone on a spending spree with a stolen credit card at a nearby supermarket. One of their purchases? A frozen, 20-pound turkey.
Cushing decided to toss the turkey into oncoming traffic, and when he did, it smashed through Ruvolo's windshield, crushing her face.
It took 10 hours in the operating room at Stony Brook University Hospital, a medically induced coma, and a month in the hospital before, miraculously, Ruvolo was able to go home. She still had a tracheotomy tube. Months of painful rehabilitation followed.
During her ordeal, Ruvolo was in touch with Cushing, who wept and expressed remorse for his action. At his sentencing on October 17, 2005, Ruvolo asked the judge for leniency. Part of her statement read: "Despite all the fear and the pain, I have learned from this horrific experience, and I have much to be thankful for.. Each day when I wake up, I thank God simply because I am alive. I sincerely hope you have also learned from this awful experience, Ryan. There is no room for vengeance in my life, and I do not believe a long, hard prison term would do you, me, or society any good."
Cushing was sentenced to six months in jail. He could have gotten a 25-year prison sentence had Ruvolo not intervened.
Ruvolo added: "I truly hope that by demonstrating compassion and leniency I have encouraged you to seek an honorable life. If my generosity will help you mature into a responsible, honest man, whose graciousness is a source of pride to your loved ones and your community, then I will be truly gratified, and my suffering will not have been in vain..Ryan, prove me right."
Ruvolo, an animal lover with four cats and a dog, all rescued, told the media, "What would vengeance do? God gave me a second chance, and I'm just passing it on."