My letter to the Cast and Crew of The Walking Dead

Dear Cast and Crew of The Walking Dead,

For the past year, maybe longer, I have been pondering how I would go about writing this letter. There have been multiple times that I have sat down and started typing, only to delete it all. In my eyes, I felt like the letter to you would never be perfect- and could never be enough. I feel like I owe my life, in part, to this show. Never in a million years could I have dreamed that watching The Walking Dead would, in fact, prepare me for the day I would have to fight for my life, but that is exactly what happened nearly three years ago. I am so incredibly grateful to all of the cast and crew of your show, and I know that I am alive today because I knew exactly what to do when I was attacked.

Some of you may be familiar with my story due to the Dirty John podcast and TV show that recently aired on Bravo, as I remember seeing a tweet at some point from Gale Anne Heard in reference to it. On August 20th 2016, I was attacked in my apartment complex parking structure by my mom’s estranged husband. She was in the middle of trying to divorce him, and he was vengeful. I had just gotten off work at the dog kennels, and had driven home covered in dog hair, still wearing my heavy kennel boots. As I pulled in through the parking structure towards my normal parking spot, my dog began to bark viciously at a man who was holding a tire iron, while fiddling in the back of his trunk. My first thought upon seeing him was “Oh how sad, that poor guy is homeless and living out of his car.” I grabbed my dog from the back seat and began walking towards my apartment. All of the sudden, the man grabbed me by the waist, looked me in the eyes, and said, “Do you remember me?” I definitely remembered him…he was my mom’s psychopath of a husband, whom she had been trying to get away from. In that split moment, my life was turned upside down. Instead of going in to get ready to see my favorite country artist, Jason Aldean, I was forced to quickly transition into survival mode.

Growing up, I watched so many crime shows. I was always very interested in these types of shows. However, for the past five years, I have been obsessed with The Walking Dead. It all started when my old boyfriend, Jimmy, took me over to his friend’s house to watch the show. I didn’t know a lot about it, and my expectations weren’t very high. But to my surprise, it ended up being amazing! I was hooked. I wanted to see more and get caught up on all the previous episodes that I hadn’t seen, so I immediately ordered season one on Netflix DVD. The day it arrived, I binged the entire first season!

Since that first introduction, I have faithfully watched every episode of the show. Sunday nights have been all about The Walking Dead! I would watch each episode as it would air, then The Talking Dead, and then re-watch the new episode again to be sure I hadn’t missed anything. Many times I would catch myself thinking….”What would I do if I were ever in a Zombie Apocalypse?” Fantasizing about that, I started to pay more attention to what the main characters were doing in order to survive. Things like holding a knife the correct way, character’s body movements when they were in a struggle, and their initial reactions to seeing a zombie near them, stuck in my mind. Never in my wildest fantasies though, did I ever guess that I would actually need the skills I was learning by watching The Walking Dead.

Right when John grabbed me, my instinct was to try and flee. Most of the time in the show, the kids and the characters who were new to seeing zombies would try and run. Escaping from their attacker gave them more of a chance of survival than if they were to try and face them straight on and fight. Unfortunately for me, I was unable to disconnect from my attacker. I knew from watching, that when that happens, you need to fight like hell, but also use tactics in your defense. So many times on The Walking Dead, victims were unable to disconnect from a Walker, and they needed to do anything to protect themselves from getting bitten. Having watched the actors on The Walking Dead fight for their lives multiple times had heightened my tactics for defending myself. As John was trying to push me towards his trunk, I started screaming as loudly as I could. He covered my mouth and my immediate instinct was to do what Rick did in Season four, Episode 16 when he bit the neck of his attacker. I channeled my inner Rick Grimes and bit John’s hand with everything I could muster, making him unable to quiet me.

As my attacker pushed me to the ground, falling on top of me, I remembered scenes from the show where characters had to get free from that same situation. I pedal kicked and blocked the knife that was now being brought down on me, in solid and rhythmic motions. This tactic, along with my dog biting ferociously at John’s ankles, sent the knife flying out of his hands and landing on the ground within my reach. I grabbed the knife that had fallen perfectly into ice pick position near my right hand, and had no other choice but to use it as if I were Andrea killing the Walker in the RV, in Season two, Episode one. My mind flashed back to The Walking Dead, and I knew that the only way to put down a zombie, was to kill the brain. At this point, it was kill or be killed. I did what the show I love taught me, what I was being forced to do, and put an end to my attacker.

In large part, I really feel like I am here today, able to talk about my attack and thank those who I believe helped me, due to the hard work and dedication of The Walking Dead Cast and Crew. I know the TV and Film Industry is challenging, and the hours spent filming can be exhausting. You all should be so proud, because you put on such an incredible show that is not only addictive, but has literally saved at least one life, and maybe others as well. Your show taught me the survival tactics that helped me to take down a real life zombie, who tormented and hurt so many people, including my family and myself. If not for The Walking Dead, John may have still been here harming people, and I may not have been alive. I’m so thankful and blessed to be here writing this letter, and it is my hope that the entire cast and crew will receive my thanks, and take pride in their show that has been so important in my life. It has been a dream of mine for quite some time to one day meet some of The Walking Dead members, and be able to thank them in person.

-Terra Newell   

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  • I really, really hope they see this and bring you to all of the things. You’re an inspiration Terra, well done. Mind yourself.


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  • Terra you are my hero.
    I just wish I had watched “The Walking Dead” as you did.
    I was attacked too and am going to court this summer.
    You talking about your attack so open and honestly has made me decide to go to therapy.
    So you have also helped someone.
    Thanks so much.

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