VALHALLA, N.Y. — Maya Leggat will walk again — on her own two feet, her father said Monday as he returned for his latest visit to the hospital where the Hunter College student is recovering nearly two weeks after she was pushed in front of a train.
"She's been an amazing fighter, just incredible," Robert Leggat of White Plains, N.Y., told The Journal News in an exclusive interview.
With rods, plates and screws binding her left leg, the straight-A student even tried to rejoin a class last week by signing onto Skype from her bed at Westchester Medical Center, though her father noted, "It was just too difficult for her to focus with all the painkillers she's taking."
He said her fighting spirit helped save her life at the White Plains train station Sept. 25, and it will serve her well as she begins a road to recovery that is expected to take months.
He has no doubt she'll get there, certainly not after learning details of that fateful morning.
The 21-year-old English major was standing alone on the platform, awaiting a train to the college in Manhattan shortly after 11 a.m. She was reviewing coursework on her Kindle e-book reader, when she noticed a stranger nearby glance at her and then look into the distance to see if there was a train approaching. They never exchanged words, and she stopped looking at him.
Moments later, he stepped behind her, grabbed her waist and threw her into the path of the oncoming train, said the father, basing his description on conversations he's had with authorities. Video surveillance footage from the station shows the man — a homeless, ex-convict named Howard J. Mickens — pushing Leggat onto the tracks, officials have said.
She was struck by a northbound train and landed about 30 feet beneath the platform. She lay there with both legs broken, and her left ring finger severed. But while there were several witnesses, amid a crowd of commuters, the father said that initially, "Nobody knew where she was under the platform."
Still, Robert Leggat, 65, a business strategy coach, said, "There were a series of miracles" that helped save her. One was that she didn't get run over. Another is that there were already extra police on site to manage larger crowds because the New Haven Line was closed and commuters were being redirected to White Plains to take the Harlem Line.
Robert Leggat said two MTA officers quickly jumped down from the platform and were able to find her almost instantly because they heard her yelling for help. She remained alert as they applied a tourniquet to her mangled leg, he said. Her left leg had a torn femoral vein that was gushing blood.
"Their skill and ability to locate her and then get a tourniquet onto her leg as fast as they did was another miracle," Leggat said. "She would have bled to death."
One of the officers later told the father that Leggat was one of the bravest people he'd ever encountered on the job, describing her as "lucid" and "in control" the whole time. The officer recalled Leggat telling them, "I know I'm hurt bad. Do what you have to do, but don't give me any of the details."
The father was also heartened by stories of bystanders who shared articles of clothing for the tourniquet, and chased the perpetrator. Mickens, 39, of White Plains, is charged with attempted murder and being held at the county jail.
Police phoned him to report the incident, after his daughter gave them his number. He arrived at the hospital shortly before she entered her first surgery. There was a brief scare that she could lose the leg because medical responders initially couldn't find a pulse on her foot, the father said. Doctors restored the blood flow during a seven-hour operation, he added.
A day later, Maya Leggat, a student with a 4.0 grade-point average, was asking for her homework from Hunter College. The university advised her not to worry about missed work, but did help set up the Skype session in the classroom.
Robert Leggat said she may need to miss the current term, but will return. Besides studying English, she's planning a second major in Japanese studies and minor in human rights.
For the next few months, her recuperation will be a priority. She is still confined mostly to her bed, and periodically experiencing great pain.
"She won't be able to walk for a few months," the father said. "Both her legs are broken. She has rods and plates and screws in her left leg, and her right leg is fractured in three places. You can't tell till further down the road whether everything will be fine, but I have no doubt that she's going to walk again. The orthopedic surgeon said it looks good."
"She's very positive in her outlook toward all that happened," he continued. "She's a Virgo, she's quite determined. And she recognizes she has a second chance. She's very aware that this could have had a very different outcome."
Family friends, meanwhile, are helping raise funds for her extensive medical care, setting up a fundraising website, care4maya.com, that has raised about $4,000 toward a $100,000 goal.
"I'm just blown away," the father said. "The outpouring so far has been phenomenal."
Robert Leggat praised the hospital and its staff, and the first responders, inviting them to visit his daughter in the hospital. The White Plains mayor and police comissioner have already stopped by.
Maya Leggat still isn't talking much about the incident itself, or the man who pushed her. Her attention now is on her next leg surgery, which comes Tuesday.
"On a case like this, it does no good to get angry," Leggat said. "Our primary focus is to help Maya get better and the less attention we place on him, the better."