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Woman in acid attack recounts agonizing pain

Bethany Storro had just bought a pair of sunglasses and was celebrating a new job when a woman walked up to her with a cup and said: "Hey pretty girl, do you want to drink this?"
/ Source: msnbc.com staff and news service reports

Bethany Storro had just bought a pair of sunglasses and was celebrating a new job when a woman walked up to her with a cup and said: "Hey pretty girl, do you want to drink this?"

The woman then splashed acid in the cup on Storro, who stumbled in pain and fell to the ground screaming. She felt agonizing pain as the skin on her face bubbled and sizzled and portions of her blouse disintegrated.

"It was the most painful thing ever," Storro, 28, said Thursday. "My heart stopped. It ripped through my clothing the instant it touched my shirt; I could feel it burning through my second layer of skin."

Police are seeking the woman in the Monday attack as Storro, with her head wrapped in white bandages, recounted Thursday how only days before, she had been celebrating a new job and a recent move to Vancouver, Wash., from Idaho.

But she insisted that she would not let the attack in Vancouver wreck her life, and laughingly marveled how her eyesight was spared just minutes after she bought those sunglasses.

Storro said she had spinal meningitis twice as a child, which robbed her of most of her hearing.

"Oh my gosh, to be hard of hearing and blind? That would drive them nuts," she said, laughing and pointing at her parents, Joe and Nancy Neuwelt. "They have to be in the same room for me to hear them. I'm just so glad it's a miracle."

Doctors at Legacy Emanuel Hospital in Portland performed surgery on Storro's face Wednesday night, removing dead skin from the areas that were most deeply injured.

This image provided by the Legacy Emanuel Medical Center shows Bethany Storro prior to surgery. Storro has undergone surgery at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center according to hospital spokeswoman Amber Shoebridge Wednesday night Sept. 1, 2010. An unidentified woman threw acid in her face in downtown Vancouver Monday evening. (AP Photo/Legacy Emanuel Medical Center)Legacy Emanuel Medical Center

Her mother said Storro was getting something out of her car before heading into a Starbucks when the woman approached her with the cup. Storro told police the attacker was a black woman with slicked-back hair in a ponytail, wearing a green top and khaki pants.

"I have never, ever seen this girl in my entire life," Storro said. "When I first saw her, she had this weirdness about her — like jealousy, rage."

After the attack, the woman ran off. A passer-by called police using Storro's cell phone.

Dr. Nick Eshraghi, a burn surgeon who operated on Storro, said it was an acid as strong as hydrochloric or sulfuric acid.

Storro said she wanted to find her assailant and ask: "Why?" Was it was a dare, or did the woman wake up Monday morning and tell herself that today, she was going to "carry some acid in a cup and throw it on the first person I see?" Storro said.

Storro said she has received letters and e-mails from people all over the country, and has been relying on her friends, family and faith to get her through this ordeal.

Nancy Neuwelt called the attack "an act of evil." Joe Neuwelt said the family hopes the attacker is found, but is focused on Storro's recovery.

"You can imagine how I feel," Joe Neuwelt said. "This is my little girl. We're going to get through this we're not going to allow this to stop our lives. We're going to get through it."

Meanwhile, the Vancouver Columbian newspaper reported that law enforcement officials in Vancouver had spoken to officials in another city about a similar attack. The paper said a police lieutenant from Puyallup, Wash., south of Seattle, said his department had spoken to Vancouver officials about the July 30 incident.

In that attack, 23-year-old woman was approached in an apartment complex parking lot by a man who said he'd been locked out of his apartment and needed water for his vehicle. When she returned with a container of water for him, the suspect threw on acidic substance on her using a cup.

The woman suffered severe chemical burns to her face and eyes. Police described the suspect in that case as a husky black man about 5-foot-10 with two distinctive marks on his right cheek.