The nation's oldest full-time park ranger, Betty Reid Soskin, has returned to work about three weeks after she was brutally attacked and robbed in her Richmond, California, apartment.
"I've had a hard time marking time," the 94-year-old said at a news conference Tuesday at the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park, her first time back since she was attacked in a home invasion on June 27. "That experience took something away from me."
She hadn't wanted to return until her face had healed from the bruising she sustained during the violent robbery, her colleagues said. Police said the thief punched her several times and stole a coin given to her by President Barack Obama at this year's National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony.
"I didn't want anyone to see me with black eyes and put it on YouTube," the tech-savvy woman, an avid blogger, half joked.
But Soskin showed no signs of physical trauma on Tuesday, and said she was ready to be back at work with her beloved colleagues and guests.
"I wanted to get back into routine life," she said, her voice full of gratitude and emotion.
She paused for a while, before saying: "I didn't think there was any way to prepare myself for this moment. It's so good to see you all and feel the support of the community."
Soskin has led tours at the Bay Area museum since she was just 85 years old, explaining her slice of history to student groups and adults 40 hours a week. During World War II, Soskin worked as a clerk for the all-black Boilermakers A-36. She grabbed headlines in the 2013 federal funding crisis when she urged Congress to get its act together so she didn't have to sit at home, not getting paid during the national furlough.
Because of all her work, Soskin was invited to light the national Christmas tree in December, where she introduced President Barack Obama.That's when he slipped her a presidential coin.
Then, late last month, someone broke into her apartment, beat her and stole her cell phone, laptop, jewelry and the coin Obama gave her to mark the event. Richmond police had not announced any arrests as of Tuesday morning.
Soskin said that while she as at home convalescing, she pondered the violent attack she survived and the deadly violence around the country, though she didn't specifically mention the ambush attack that killed five police officers in Dallas last week, or the two deaths of black men by police in Minnesota and Louisiana.
"I couldn't deal with the world close up," she said. "So I had to move the lens out. I needed the distance, but then I began to see myself as part of the whole. The violence we are suffering individually is an expression of what we are all what we are experiencing collectively."
She said she's still trying to make sense of what happened to her.
But what she knows is how loved she is by those she works with and strangers who heard her story. Her colleagues at the National Park Service, and members of the community at large, have raised more than $50,000 to help her replace those items, as well as fund a documentary being made about her, according to the park service.
Her boss, Supt. Tom Leatherman, told NBC Bay Area that he received an email from Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, saying that Obama would replace the coin. As of Tuesday, Leatherman said the coin hadn't come.
Until it does comes, Soskin summed up her horrifying experience like this: "It was an adventure. One that I wished I'd never have, but it's over now."