This has been an unimaginably difficult time in Portland, Oregon, where I live and work.
Last week, Ricky Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche were both stabbed to death while protecting two teenage girls – one, African American, the other, Muslim American, and wearing a hijab – from a very violent and vocal white supremacist who was hurling anti-Muslim insults at them. A third man, Micah Fletcher, also bravely rose to the girls' defense and was seriously wounded. It all happened on the Portland MAX train -- a commuter rail that runs through the city.
One day after this wrenching event, a vigil was held. From there, I live-tweeted.
The following morning I turned to Facebook, where I posted this:
“Yesterday it struck me that fate put the best and worst of Portland together on a train, and the worst won. Then I covered last night's vigil in Portland, where I encountered Asha Deliverance, whose 23-year-old son, Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche, was one of the two men murdered on the MAX train.
At the vigil, Asha was alternately, and very publicly, grieving her son and reaching out to people. There was an especially moving moment that quickly passed through my camera, where she leaned in toward a woman who approached her who was Muslim.
I walked up to Asha as she was leaving and we talked. I told her that I was sorry I photographed her, but that I thought the world should see. I don't know why I apologized. It just feels so bad in the moment, you know? She grabbed my arm, looked me in the eye and smiled. I'm guessing she wants the world to see.”
The photograph was also posted on the Oregonian’s website, where I work.
I have heard from people all over the world since the image was published.
My hope is that the feelings expressed to me by so many, many people will somehow reach and surround these two women, everyone who was on the train that day, including and especially the two girls -- children, really -- and the countless others who have been so profoundly traumatized by what happened.
I’ll leave you with the words of one woman who reached out to me. She is a 21-year-old student in Pakistan. In part, and with her permission, she had this to say:
“It’s easy to hate about a thing or person whom you don’t know … I am saying this due to increased Islamophobia about Muslims … undoubtedly there are many things which divide us … and I really wish we could treat each other as fellow humans rather than division … I hope we all reunite for peace no matter how difficult it may be.”