An Army veteran, a recent college graduate and a student who once won a poetry contest by condemning prejudice stirred up by the Sept. 11 attacks intervened as a man screamed anti-Muslim insults at two women in Portland, Ore., on Friday.
In the days that followed, the three men were hailed as heroes.
Two of the men — Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, 23, and Rick Best, 53 — died in the attack, which occurred on a commuter train. The third, Micah David-Cole Fletcher, 21, was treated on Saturday for injuries that the police said were serious but not life-threatening.
Jeremy Christian, 35, of North Portland, Ore., was charged with two counts of aggravated murder in the attack and could face additional charges when he is arraigned on Tuesday. Mr. Christian, who the authorities said had a history of making extremist statements on social media, was ranting at, and talking disparagingly about, the two women, one of whom was wearing a hijab.
One of the women, Destinee Mangum, 16, spoke to a Fox affiliate in Oregon on Saturday. She said she is not a Muslim.
“I just want to say thank you to the people who put their life on the line for me, because they didn’t even know me and they lost their lives because of me and my friend and the way we look,” Ms. Mangum said. “And I just want to say thank you to them and their family and that I appreciate them because without them, we probably would be dead right now.”
Destinee Mangum, one of the targets of hate speech on a MAX train, thanks strangers for saving her life. pic.twitter.com/sefmOAyIVt
— FOX 12 Oregon KPTV (@fox12oregon) May 28, 2017
About 1,000 people gathered on Saturday night at a vigil to honor the men who intervened, according to The Oregonian.
“They didn’t have capes,” Ellie Eaton, a local activist, said at the event, according to the newspaper. “They were just human beings that we all have the capacity to be like.”
The Muslim Educational Trust, a local organization for the Muslim community, hosted a second vigil, followed by an interfaith dinner. Sadaf Assadi, a fourth-year dentistry student and one of the event’s organizers, said they had planned for 400 people but about 600 came. She said many of the attendees, most likely motivated by Friday’s attack, told her: “We need more of this.”
She said she was moved that two non-Muslims would stand up for “other people who look totally different than them, believe in things completely different from them, and are foreigners.”
“Generally I think people tend to stay quiet and hope someone else will take care of the problem,” she said. “And I’m just so touched they did that, and it’s so tragic they set up to do something good and they paid with their lives for it.”
Representative Keith Ellison, Democrat of Minnesota and the first Muslim elected to Congress, said in a statement that the three men “exhibited the best qualities of American heroes.”
“Let us strive to be as brave and as compassionate as them,” Mr. Ellison said.
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