Liberty Gratz has been working at her local Publix in Virginia since it opened last fall. Out of all the shifts she has completed, what happened on Sunday afternoon is burned into her memory.
“All of a sudden, I felt some woman hit me in my back,” Liberty recounted through her mom Jeanette Gratz’s interpreting.
Liberty is deaf and says she could not hear the woman asking where to find an item in the store when the scene turned violent.
Liberty, who also has vision loss, remembers kneeling down to straighten out a bottom shelf when she felt the knock out of nowhere.
“She doesn’t have that peripheral vision, so she’s really focused on her work,” explains Jeanette. “She doesn’t always notice the people beside her.”
Liberty, who uses American Sign Language (ASL) with family and friends, communicates with shoppers by writing on a pad of paper.
After the woman got her attention, Liberty says she pointed her in the direction of what she needed.
Liberty, however, carried the blow with her.
“She could still feel it when I picked her up from work,” Jeanette says. “How would you feel if you were working and someone just came up behind you and decided to punch you?”
Liberty says Publix was overly supportive. Her department and store managers scoured the security footage, but no one could make out who it was.
“They kept looking again and again and again, but you couldn’t see because there were so many people blocking the camera,” Liberty signs while her mom interprets. “It was hard for me to really see her face to make sure it was the right person.”
Liberty still does not know who did it. She would love to sit down with the woman and have a conversation with her about being kind to people with and without disabilities.
Liberty and Jeanette have a message for the woman about what is right and what is wrong.
“I know hurt people usually are the ones that hurt people,” Jeanette observes. “And so whoever it is, they’ve been prayed for. I will continue to pray for them, and I hope that things get better in their life so they can be better to other people.”
WJBF’s sister station WRIC reached out to Publix for a comment, but no one has been back in touch yet.