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Willowbrook documentary title logo>

From Geraldo's book, Willowbrook: A Report On How It Is And Why It Doesn't Have To Be That Way

When Dr. Wilkins slid back the heavy metal door of B Ward, building No 6, the horrible smell of the place staggered me. It was so wretched that my first thought was that the air was poisonous and would kill me. I looked down to steady myself and I saw a freak: a grotesque caricature of a person, lying under the sink on an incredibly filthy floor in an incredibly filthy bathroom. It was wearing trousers, but they were pulled down around the ankles. It was skinny. It was twisted. It was lying in its own feces. And it wasn't alone. Sitting next to this thing was another freak. In a parody of human emotion they were holding hands. They were making a noise. It was a wailing sound that I still hear and that I will never forget. I said out loud, but to nobody in particular, 'My God, they're children.' Wilkins looked at me and said, 'Welcome to Willowbrook'.

Last Great Disgrace 1972

This is the original Willowbrook documentary aired on Eyewitness News that spurred protests, investigations, and ultimately, over a decade later, the closing of the Willowbrook Institution. Geraldo won a Peabody Award for this documentary, and it continues to be studied in colleges and universities across the country. In this short clip to the left, President John F Kennedy talks about his visit to Willowbrook.

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Good Night America 18

Here Rivera again goes into Willowbrook, close to the 5 year anniversary of his initial investigation into the institution. He talks about the progress and some positives in the form of contributions made to improve care for the mentally challenged. This clip shows Governor Elect Hugh Carey of New York with his affirmation that there are better alternatives to the terror that was the Willowbrook State School. Later in the show Geraldo speaks to Bernard Carabello, who spent 18 years as a patient in the institution, and who then, and now, lives on his own.

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Willowbrook II

On this 20/20 show, 10 years after the initial investigation, Geraldo talks about the progress made since. Hugh Downes does an introduction and Geraldo lays out exhibits for closing down of the school, and points out clearly the inadequacies in such a place.

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College of Staten Island Commencement

Today, the Willowbrook State School is long gone. On the former grounds stands a school dedicated to assisting the developmentally disabled. This school is the College of Staten Island. In this clip Geraldo gives a commencement speech for the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work. The students, atmosphere, and attitude of this event are an excellent positive note, and show how despite what a travesty on the human conscience Willowbrook State School was, thousands have been inspired and are committed to never allowing the same mistakes.

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