Abortion Clinic Bombing Victim Emily Lyons Speaks Out

A terrorist's bombing victim speaks out

IR: What has been the hardest part?

JEFF: The worst for me was when I had to give the surgeon permission to take her eye out. Vision is so incredibly important to us. Next to life itself, it's our most important gift.

EMILY: This is definitely a vision-oriented world.

JEFF: At first, they told me there was a 50-50 chance of her living. They didn't know if her liver was hit. Then they came down and said they might have to amputate her leg.

When they said, "We need your permission to remove the left eye — and, by the way, her right eye is badly damaged and we can't tell if it will be functional again," that was unbearable. The thought that, even if she lived, she would always visualize her children as being 13 and 17...

IR: How has it been for your daughters?

EMILY: They've had to grow up a lot this year. They are having to take care of Mom, which I hate. But there's no option right now. It's matured them a lot, and that's good in a way. But it came earlier than it should have.

My oldest daughter is my driver, my cook, my housekeeper, my shopper, everything. I feel like I'm a child learning to walk again.

IR: And how have you changed?

EMILY: I used to be wallflower. I taught nursing for two years at a university and I hated it. I didn't like being up in front of a group of people.

JEFF: I remember in the first press conference [while Emily was still in the hospital], I said I would be happy to talk to the media, but I really didn't think that my wife would be up to ever doing a media event. She's certainly a different woman today.

The other interesting thing is that her hair was just about perfectly straight before this, and now it has come out really wavy. We call it her "perma-blast."

EMILY: Somebody asked me if anything could intimidate me any more. I don't think so. When you've been blown up, I don't think there's anything that can.

IR: You renewed your wedding vows three months after the bombing.

JEFF: Obviously, in the emergency room, Emily's ring was not the first thing on my mind. Her hand was grotesquely swollen, and I thought they had probably cut the ring off and thrown it in the trash. She had never taken that band off since the day we got married.

About a week after it happened, a police officer called me at work and said, "I've got your wife's ring. I'm sorry, I shined it up as best I could." He was actually apologizing that it might be dirty or have some blood on it. That really hit me, that this officer would take the time to polish the ring up before giving it to us.

EMILY: That ring had never been off.

JEFF: She wanted a special ceremony to put it back on. I also gave her a locket with Jan. 29 [the date of the bombing] inscribed on the back. I wanted to give it to her with the ring. Exactly three months later, we got married again.

EMILY: On April 29, I put that ring back on.

IR: Emily, you recently testified in Washington before the House Subcommittee on Crime, which was considering whether or not RICO [the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, a law originally aimed at organized crime] should apply to clinic violence.

I understand that [U.S. Rep.] Henry Hyde [R-Ill., a long-time abortion opponent] tried to keep you from appearing. What happened?

EMILY: Between the press and Congressman [John] Conyers [D-Mich.], he just caved in.

But there weren't many Republicans there, and [Hyde] didn't show up. It was, "I'm going to listen to what [witnesses] I want to hear and then I'm out of here."

IR: Despite that, how did you feel after the hearing?

EMILY: If that trip to D.C. changed anything, it made me feel stronger about the system. If it hadn't, everything would just seem so futile.