Friday, December 5, 2008

unsettling memorial forces passers-by to reflect

Check out this photoset of a temporary memorial to a Blair High freshman who was shot riding the bus home from Ellsworth Drive.

Last Fall, I went to a lecture by writer and sociologist Richard Sennett. He talked about places or events in a community - particularly in diverse urban settings - that force people to deal with things that are foreign and sometimes unsettling to them. One example was an AIDS clinic in a strip mall in Queens. The neighbors were initially upset by it, but being exposed to people who were suffering while they ran daily errands became a reminder of how beautiful and fragile life really is.

I didn't really appreciate what he said until last weekend when I visited Downtown Silver Spring and encountered a woman breaking the windows of City Place Mall with a baseball bat. The event was unexpected, frustrating and deeply disturbing - but, at least for a few minutes, it brought together a group of strangers who all shared the same feeling of helplessness.

A block over on Ellsworth Drive, a different sort of crowd was forming around an impromptu memorial created for Tai Lam, the Blair High freshman who was murdered on a Ride-On bus last month. Suddenly, the grieving process - a deeply personal thing for his friends and family - had been thrown into the most public of public spaces in Silver Spring. People who had never heard of Tai Lam were drawn from Christmas shopping and nights out to a momentary reflection on the loss of a life.

It's unclear how long this tribute will remain in Downtown Silver Spring, but I hope that many more people can see it and be moved by the outpouring of support for a person who - just by being young - embodied everything that we seem to love (and hate) about weekend evenings on Ellsworth Drive.


Thomas Hardman said...

Ah, Tai Lam, murdered, allegedly, by three illegal alien gangbangers. Shot for no apparent reason.

Poor old Ms Lila Meizell, murdered, allegedly, by illegal aliens who forged her check and then invaded her home, beat her unconscious, lit her and her home ablaze, and then went on a shopping spree, just supporting the economy on Black Friday like all those Americans clearly have refused to do.

And then there's Mary Havenstein, murdered in her home by a burglar who also goes straight to ICE after serving his sentence.

Not to mention the Spivaks down in the Distict, with their home invaded, tied up and beaten over the head with a machete by... gangsters not legally in the US.

So it seems that once a week we've been getting citizens murdered by... illegal aliens.

Poor Tai Lam deserved to live and continue to be an honor student, and he face on a poster deserves to be in that impromptu shrine on Ellsworth, confronting the society that failed him.

But where should we put the shrines for Meizell, Spivak, and Havenstein? You know, where people have to confront the faces of their failure?

Gary said...

The first time I went by the memorial I nearly cried - the notes from his classmates. What a senseless waste of life.

Thomas Hardman said...

The police had his (alleged) murderers in custody in the previous month, at least one of them for "dangerous weapon-concealed". Specifically, a machete if I correctly recall what I read on the Courts website.

And if they had bothered to run his name past ICE, that individual at least would not have been on the streets of Montgomery County to (allegedly) take the life of an honor student and traumatize everyone who knew Tai Lam.

That poor kid was just riding on the bus.

Everyone who knew that poor boy ought to write a letter to Chief of Police, J. Thomas Manger, demanding to know why his policies about foreign gangsters let their friend be gunned down in cold blood. Because if it wasn't for those "catch and release" policies, it's about for sure that their friend would still be alive.

Write the letters, folks.

These policies need to change.

This can't be allowed to happen again.