The astonishing story of the decade-long captivity of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight has enthralled the country. The incredible tragedy, like all good narratives, has even had a touch of comedy. The neighbor who was credited with helping Amanda Berry escape, Charles Ramsey, became a media darling after a series of colorful interviews. In one, he famously said, "I knew something was wrong when a pretty little white girl ran into a black man's arms." But now there's doubt about Ramsey's true role in this story, and whether or not he's the hero everyone has made him out to be.
Charles Ramsey has made it clear from the beginning that another neighbor, Angel Cordero, was the one who alerted him to Amanda Berry's desperate struggle to free herself of the house where Ariel Castro had been allegedly holding her and two other women for a decade. As Ramsey has told it, he was sitting in his house (eating McDonald's -- a constant theme in his interviews) when he heard a scream like a "kid got run over by a car," and saw his neighbor running to the Castro house. He has admitted that the neighbor running was really what drew his attention.
He then said in interviews that while Cordero got to the house first, he left before Amanda could get out of the house. Cordero is now disputing that account, saying that it was he who kicked down the door to free Amanda. He told an ABC affiliate:
I helped her and I was first. Ramsey arrived after she was outside with the girl. But the truth who arrived there, who crossed the street, who came and broke the door, it was me.
Ramsey has always contended that he helped Amanda kick down the door because it was chained and only her hand could fit out. Once Amanda and her 6-year-old daughter were free, he called 911 (the call is recorded, and his colorful description of events has helped make him famous). He also says he then told Amanda, "you see that f*** that didn't help you, go get his cellphone. You call 911 from his phone. That way, while I'm trying to get through and you trying to get through, we both bound to make this happen."
There is also recording of Amanda calling 911 from another neighbor's house. Sad that Ramsey felt two calls would be needed to get a response, but given the somewhat callous response of Amanda's 911 dispatcher, which is now being investigated, perhaps wise.
Now two other neighbors, Aurora Marti, and her friend, Ana, say they were the first to respond to Amanda's cries for help. They say they called to Ramsey but since their English was limited, decided to turn to their Spanish-speaking friend, Angel Cordero, for help and also say he's the one who first kicked down the door.
It may seem petty to be arguing about who helped Amanda first, but with a possible reward on the line, not too surprising. Additionally, fame can be monetized. Ramsey already has the rest beat in terms of that -- he's been memed, gif'd, and autotuned ad nauseum online. He's done the media rounds and is still doing them. He's got a GoFundMe. McDonalds tweeted that the corporation would be "in touch" with him. Spokesman deal? Free lifetime supply of McRibs?
Who knows what really happened in those adrenaline-filled moments when Amanda was first able to crack open the door to hell and scream for freedom. Given the crazy circumstances, no one may know exactly who did what first. The real story is that these women were found and everyone -- from Amanda herself to Cordero to Ramsey to the cops who first entered the house and found the other two victims -- are heroes.
If Charles Ramsey gets his 15 minutes, who cares? He may not have been the only one who helped, but he did indeed play a vital role in getting the women out. And his personality lends itself to fame. So let the man have his due.
Here's Songify's autotuned version of Ramsey's interviews:
Do you think that it matters who got there first?
Image via YouTube