In progressive Portland, you would not imagine that a white supremacist would commit murder on one of America’s crown jewels of urban planning, the city’s gleaming light rail train known as MAX.
Riding on MAX is almost always a sedate experience. The usual suspects pop up from time to time, a drunk here, loud music there, but it’s mostly a smooth and uneventful ride traversing the Portland metro area.
I rode the MAX in from Portland International Airport, universally referred to by locals as PDX, on Tuesday afternoon.
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It was a brilliantly clear day, unusual for this time of year in Portland; spring rain can linger until July 4.
I saw nothing that day on MAX other than kids with headphones, elderly people, and people like me with suitcases from PDX. I passed Douglas firs; I miss them.
Stops went by: Gateway, Hollywood, Lloyd Center. A recording played at each stops well known to regular MAX riders, like a lulling theme song: “Hollywood Station. Doors to the right. Puertas a mi derecha.”
I heard no yelling, saw no anger, encountered no neo-Nazis.
Three days later, at about the same time in the afternoon on a similarly brilliant blue sky day that I rode MAX, passengers had a very different experience.
As the MAX approached the Hollywood stop I had rolled by, admiring the lush green trees, a man named Jeremy Christian began screaming at the two women, ranting about free speech and how blacks were ruining his city.
Several men confronted the demented man, who pulled a knife on them as the train rolled to a stop.
The men trying to help the women were killed by the wannabe Nazi armed with a 3.5 inch blade. One died instantly. One survived. The other man was conscious, wondering if everyone was OK.
He died on the way to the hospital.
His last words were, “Tell everyone on this train that I love them,” KGW-TV reported.
I doubt those will be the last words of the delusional maniac who killed Rick Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche. That’s the difference between humans and Nazis.
President Donald Trump waited days to tweet about it. Days. An act of domestic terror on a sunny day in a city in the United States didn’t seem to interest him much.
On Sunday afternoon, I stopped at the Hollywood station. A massive memorial of flowers, messages, candles, and balloons had sprouted where this insanity happened.
Even as they had never met them, everyone on the train loved the men who died.