Gongs and tears mark anniversary of fatal MAX stabbing
It began with Taliesin Namkai-Meche's crooning — the sweet melody of the slain 23-year-old's R&B recordings drifting over the coalescing crowd.
Next came the clang of a MAX car stopped, forever it seemed, at the Northeast 42nd Avenue station. Then the ringing of a Buddhist bell, five gongs for five souls involved in the attack.
And for those who were listening, the resounding stillness of falling tears.
"My dear sisters and brothers, we cannot remain silent," Wajdi Said intoned before a huddle of hundreds gathered at the Hollywood Transit Mall on Saturday, May 26 — one year to the day since two men were killed and a third wounded during a confrontation over hate speech on the light-rail system.
"God doesn't change the status quo," Said continued. "Let's change ourselves to change our public narrative."
Speeches concluded. The audience surged forward. And shortly after 4:30 p.m. — the time when the bloody train pulled into this station in 2017 — every nook and cranny of the transit center was covered in white carnations, bouquets and flowers of all colors.
Mt. Tabor resident Peter Maris worked at the Bureau of Development Services with Ricky John Best, the U.S. Army veteran and Happy Valley father of four who died alongside Taliesin.
"He's a hero to all of us," said Maris, who is employed in the equity and policy division. "He embodies the work that we do."
When Micah Fletcher ran off that MAX car, screaming and holding his neck, Marcus Knipe of Fairview was there with his family. He remembers "grabbing him, getting my hand on the wound, trying to calm him down."
"Looking around at everyone here, it feels good," Knipe said in an interview. "We can overcome anything that can happen."
Painter's tape and plastic wrap still covers the handrails of the transit center's ramp walkway, but the walls have been transformed with hues that rise up from orange to pink, purple and blue.
Snatches of encouragement are written there — "Diversity is our strength," "May we all walk in your courage," "No 'them' only 'us'" — quotations from the chalk writing that soon adorned the walls after the fatal attack.
Jenna Saadeh, an Arab-American with a Muslim background, is friends with Sarah Farahat, the artist who was selected out of 27 applicants to create the mural and tribute.
"There's been a lot more effort from the Portland community to bridge the gap" Saadeh told the Tribune. "It had a profound effect on me."
n a speech, Rabbi Debra Kolodny hailed those involved as "upstanders," not bystanders, who fought back in the face of "vicious hate."
I"Memorials such as this are vitally important for our collective healing," she noted.
Mayor Ted Wheeler did not speak during the ceremony, but said in a news release that "as we mark this day, we must choose to remain united in our resolve to choose love. We must recognize the incredible resilience of our community."
The bell, on loan from the Buddhist Daihonzan Henjyoji Temple in Portland, was struck first by Asha Deliverance, mother of Taliesin Namkai-Meche; then Erik Best, Rick Best's oldest son; then Margie Fletcher, Micah's mother; then Dijuana Hudson, who rang the bell twice, once for her daughter Destinee Mangum and again for the other girl on the train, Walia Mohamed.
Jeremy Christian remains behind bars at the Multnomah County Detention Center, where he awaits trial for aggravated murder, attempted murder and intimidation, a hate crime.