“Tell everyone on this train I love them”. These were the last words of Taliesin Namkai-Meche, as he took his last breaths in the arms of a stranger.
Taliesin Namkai-Meche, 35 and Ricky John Best, 53, were the 2 victims stabbed to death on a train in Portland late last month. Micah David-Cole Fletcher, 21, was the 3rd victim who was stabbed in the neck but has since recovered from his injuries.
These three heroes were attacked, when they stood up against Jeremy Joseph Christian, a white-supremacist who was verbally abusing and threatening two young African-American girls- one of whom was a Muslim wearing a hijab.
We all like to believe that if we’re ever put in a position where we have to stand against injustice and speak truth to power we will do just that. But will we? I mean these men could’ve thought of their own safety, their children’s future, their unaccomplished dreams but when they saw injustice occurring in front of them they pushed all that aside and put their life on the line. It takes something beyond normal, something heroic to actually do that. This is the true essence of a hero, a person who doesn’t relinquish his humanity at any cost. A person who understands that ensuring a society where hate is refuted is a responsibility we all have to accept. If one is able to do that, then even the word ‘hero’ seems limiting.
As if their actions on the train weren’t enough, Micah Fletcher, the surviving victim went one step further. After a week of receiving support through words and monetary donations that exceeded $600,000 he released a video on his Facebook page. He thanked everyone for their support, but intentionally shifted the focus on the two girls who were the victims of racial abuse that day. He urged people to “imagine” that they were one of the girls. “Just remember that, you know, they got hurt too. Her life is never going to be the same,” he said. Then he took the crown of bravery society had placed on his head and passed it to those girls by saying, “those brave young girls” lived through Friday’s harassment and attack and yet “find ways to wake up in the morning with smiles on their faces.”
These men were simply the epitome of humanity. They were heroes. While two were taken from us, one is luckily living amongst us today.
But the painful thought that was continuously nagging in the back of my head was, why? Why did a regular train ride turn into a moment of grief for two families and a moment of fear for two young girls. Ricky John Best left behind 3 teenage sons and a 12-year-old daughter. Taliesin Namkai-Meche was just starting his life out of college and planning on starting a family with his girlfriend. Why was hatred allowed to take all that away?
I didn’t want to even acknowledge the name of Jeremy Joseph Christian, he doesn’t deserve our time. But to do so, we would be allowing the deaths of Taliesin and Ricky to go in vain. We have to ponder over what compelled this ‘terrorist’ (yes, that’s exactly what he was) to be so cruel and vile. To slash the throats of three innocent men in broad daylight. To demean two 16-year-old girls simply for the god they prayed to and the way they looked. It was hatred, bigotry and intolerance for difference. We each must do our bit in countering that, in whatever way possible to ensure not one more Taliesin or Ricky is cut short of their life.
We also must do our bit in living our lives honoring the legacy of these men, and others like them. How do we do that? In the words of Micah himself, “I spat in the eye of hate and lived. This is what we must do for one another. We must live for one another. We must fight for one another. We must die in the name of freedom if we have to”. There’s no other alternative. We’re in this together.
Taliesin Namkai-Meche and Ricky John Best. Remember these names. Remember the legacy they left behind. Rest in Power Heroes and Rest in Peace.