Portlanders honor victims of MAX attack in anniversary vigil

Attendees celebrate new mural representing healing

Trimet shut down the Hollywood Transit Center in Northeast Portland for an hour and a half on Saturday, May 26 to commemorate victims of last year’s stabbing attack by white nationalist Jeremy Christian.

More than 400 attendees—including the families of the deceased and Mayor Ted Wheeler—placed flowers on a new memorial mural covering the station and listened to speeches by local activists and spiritual leaders honoring the victims and addressing bias and hate crime.

“Anything can happen in this day and age,” said an attendee named Bill. “The selflessness of those young men to say and do something is admirable.”

At approximately 4:30 p.m. on May 26, 2017, Christian fatally stabbed veteran and father of four Ricky John Best and recent university graduate Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche. Portland State student Micah Fletcher survived the attack but sustained several serious injuries.

The victims confronted Christian after he began screaming anti-Islamic slurs at two Black female passengers, one of them wearing a hijab, on board a MAX light rail train.

“One year ago the scene here…was much different,” said Maura White of Hollywood Boosters Business Association in a speech. “Sirens, flashing lights, some people running, others stunned in place. Ambulances, paramedics and first responders rushing to try and save lives.”

“What transpired here was devastating,” White continued, “for the family whose dad and husband never made it home from work, for the mother and siblings who would never see that sweet smile again, for a young man left fighting for his life, for two young women whose trip on the MAX was shattered by hate-filled ranting, for everyone on the train that witnessed that attack and the aftermath, for the Hollywood neighborhood and for the entire community. It shook us, all of us, to the core, family, friends, neighbors and strangers.”

The event also highlighted the completion of a mural painted by Egyptian American artist Sarah Farahat. A ribbon of words from the poem “Awakening” by performance duo Climbing PoeTree is intertwined with Western peony flowers blooming and seeding in a rainbow backdrop to represent the healing process. The poem is scripted in Somali, Chinese, Spanish, Russian, English, Vietnamese, Chinook and Arabic.

The inner walls feature words of love and encouragement offered by members of the community that appeared after the May 26 incident, and over the platform illuminated by a painting of a night sky are the word “We Choose Love.”

“I’m deeply grateful,” said Rabbi Debra Kolodny of Portland’s UnShul, “for the artistry that we see today lovingly manifested by a team of impacted community members highly attuned to the conditions that created a need for it.”

Wajdi Said of the Muslim Education Trust addressed what he said were issues members of the Islamic faith and people of color deal with on a daily basis. “We see suffering because of bigotry,” Said said. “We see suffering because of hate. We can not remain silent, we cannot be bigoted, we can not be full of hate…There is only one race: the human race.”

The ceremony concluded with the ringing of a bell brought from the Buddhist Daihonzan Henjyoji Temple. It rang five times at exactly 4:30 p.m. in honor of the victims of the attack.

“It’s important to come together like this,” said an attendee named Callie. “It’s sickening what happened that day.”