BIRMINGHAM AL JAN 9 2008
Mattie Mae Woods has lived 88 years and given birth to 17 children.
She’s seen some of her kinfolk become evangelists and others go to prison. Her grandson, Nathaniel Woods, is on Death Row for the 2004 shooting deaths of three Birmingham police officers, though he wasn’t the triggerman.
She’s outlived more than half of her children and, on Friday night, she survived more than a half dozen bullets to her aging body when she was caught in a hail of gunfire likely meant for someone else.
She is, she said, a living witness to the grace of God.
“I’m blessed,” Woods said Tuesday from her UAB Hospital bed. “I can say that because all of them bullets were flying. It was a miracle from God that I didn’t get killed.”
Woods and daughter, 49-year-old Caffery Woods, were sitting in a parked SUV outside her daughter’s duplex home in the 7400 block of Second Avenue South in East Lake when someone opened fire on them with as many as 50 rounds just after 7:30 p.m. Woods took eight bullets to the back, buttocks, hip and arm. Her daughter, nicknamed Dossie, was killed instantly.
“I said `Dossie,’ and I felt her hand,” Woods said. “I knew she was dead.”
Police on Tuesday had not identified any suspects in the shootings. Investigators believe Woods and her daughter were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“We don’t believe they were the intended victims, but we don’t think it was random,” said Birmingham homicide Sgt. Cory Hardiman. “It may have been a case of mistaken identity. Somebody went there to do harm to somebody at that location, but we don’t think it was to harm them.”
Woods said she and her daughter had just returned home from the grocery store where they had wired some money to one of Caffery Woods’ children. They stopped by the house to pick up a load of medicine that Caffery Woods was to deliver to a nursing home in Walker County as part of her job.
With a daughter due to deliver her third child this week, Caffery Woods was concerned about being too far from home, so instead she sat with her mother in the car and made arrangements to swap deliveries with a co-worker.
Caffery Woods notified her supervisor of the change in plans, then told her mother she needed to sit there just a few minutes longer to see how much money she had for gas and some bills that needed to be paid. Mattie Mae Woods said they noticed a car driving back and forth at the end of the alley in which they were parked. They became nervous and Woods said, “Let’s go.”
Before I heard all of this boom, boom, boom, boom, and I said, `Oh Lord Jesus, save us,’” she said. “I didn’t know what was happening. Glass was falling in the car, glass was falling out of the big picture window of the house, glass was flying everywhere. I was just calling on the Lord.”
“The bullets were hitting me so fast; I can’t remember nothing,” she said. “It was pitiful. I just couldn’t believe it.” When it was over, there was silence again. Too much. “I said out loud, `They done killed my daughter,’” Woods said. “Bullets had done hit me everywhere.” Woods has remained hospitalized since then but was listed in good condition Tuesday and expected to be released as early as Tuesday evening. Her wounds were painful, but did not require surgery. All the bullets passed through her body, she said.
“It had to be God’s will for me to live. I’m 88 years old going on 89,” she said. “It was the mercy of the Lord.”
Though she’s strong and faithful, Woods said she still grieves the death of her daughter. “It’s the worstest thing that could ever happen to a human being – a person’s life taken away from them in a matter of minutes,” she said. “It’s just sad.”
Caffery Woods, she said, was an evangelist and the mother to two boys and two girls. One of her sons is en route to Birmingham from Afghanistan for the weekend funeral. Woods and her family are originally from Anniston.
She described her daughter as nice and kind. “She was a lovely person. She was smart. She was churchgoing. She didn’t bother nobody,” she said.
The two were practically inseparable, Woods said. “She would carry me to the doctor; she would buy me things that I need; she would carry me to the grocery store, and we’d go to church,” she said. “We were like two black-eyed peas in a pod.”
Woods said she has no idea who would have harmed her or killed her daughter. “Don’t nobody know but the one that did it,” she said. “We don’t know what happened, but if we just be still and be patient, it’s going to come out. You can run, but you can’t hide. That’s the right way.”
She said she isn’t angry, but she does want justice. “I don’t carry no grudges,” she said. “God said I will fight your battles and all you’ve got to do is just be still.”