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.
I think everyone in Portland is breathing a huge sigh of relief over this. We've just seen so much in these last fe… https://t.co/BX2Q7fBHom— Alexander Reid Ross (@Alexander Reid Ross)1582328367.0
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.'"
I have some feels about the whole Jeremy Christian debacle. First I’m so glad that he was convicted and I hope all… https://t.co/07lXuWKtc0— Dimestore Guevara (@Dimestore Guevara)1582382026.0
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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