Don’t forget the heroes who gave their lives stopping a racist’s deadly train assault

Jeremy Christian is the name in the headlines. But Ricky John Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche are the names worth remembering. In sacrificing their lives to protect those of two innocent strangers, they leave behind a legacy that while tragic, can also inspire hope and meaning in others.

Back in 2017, Christian boarded a Max train in Portland, Oregon where he began verbally harassing two young female minority passengers, one of whom was wearing a hijab. When that harassment escalated to threats of physical violence, three brave passengers intervened. Christian pulled a knife from his coat and attacked the three passengers, fatally wounding Best and Namkai-Meche.


As an Oregon native, I can attest that few events have rattled the local population like this. Often considered a progressive oasis, Oregon has faced more than its share of racist and right-wing incidents over the years. But there was a unique urgency to this event and the way these three genuine heroes responded in the face of violent bigotry that impacted people who call Portland home.

Local vigils were held for the victims. At the time, survivor Micah Fletcher refused to take credit for his heroic intervention, instead saying that attention should remain focused on the two young girls targeted by Christian:

"Can you imagine being the little girl on that MAX [train]?" he says in the video. "This man is screaming at you. ... Everything about him is cocked and loaded and ready to kill you."

"So brave that young girls experience that and still find ways to wake up in the morning with smiles on their faces, to trudge through the day and make their parents proud," he continues.

Reportedly, Namkai-Meche's own last words were a message of love, telling a fellow passenger on the train who was attempting to comfort him in his dying moments:

"He said, 'Tell them, I want everybody to know, I want everybody on the train to know, I love them.'"

Christian will likely spend the rest of his life in prison. And that's where he belongs for committing such horrible crimes and for showing zero remorse. His actions should not be forgotten, lest we allow hateful crimes like it to be perpetrated again.

However, when it comes to headlines and the stories we choose to tell in remembrance, it's an important opportunity to keep the focus on the three men who literally put their lives on the line in the name of decency, especially for those two who are no longer with us. And as Fletcher himself said, the focus going forward should be on the two young women who were the targets of violence to begin with. Using this as an opportunity to face the toxic elements of our culture, treat them, and move forward, is the best way to honor those who paid the ultimate price to protect the innocent.

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Anne Hebert, a marketing writer living in Austin, TX, jokes that her closest friends think that her hobby is "low-key harassment for social good". She authors a website devoted entirely to People Doing Good Things. She's hosted a yearly canned food drive with up to 150 people stopping by to donate, resulting in hundreds of pounds of donations to take to the food bank for the past decade.

"I try to share info in a positive way that gives people hope and makes them aware of solutions or things they can do to try to make the world a little better," she said.

For now, she's encouraging people through a barrage of persistent, informative, and entertaining emails with one goal in mind: getting people to VOTE. The thing about emailing people and talking about politics, according to Hebert, is to catch their attention—which is how lice got involved.

"When my kids were in elementary school, I was class parent for a year, which meant I had to send the emails to the other parents. As I've learned over the years, a good intro will trick your audience into reading the rest of the email. In fact, another parent told me that my emails always stood out, especially the one that started: 'We need volunteers for the Valentine's Party...oh, and LICE.'"

Hebert isn't working with a specific organization. She is simply trying to motivate others to find ways to plug in to help get out the vote.

Photo by Phillip Goldsberry on Unsplash

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