During a day of shock, horror and grief Saturday, Ashlanders were remembering Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche as a young man who would stand up against evil and, Friday evening in Portland, he paid the ultimate price for it.
As two teen girls were taunted with anti-Muslim epithets and threats on a Portland light-rail train, Meche and two other men stepped in to shield them. Meche and Ricky John Best, 53, of Happy Valley, were killed for their efforts, while Micah David-Cole Fletcher, 21, of southeast Portland, was critically injured.
Ashland’s Facebook pages on Saturday filled up with well-wishings for his mother, long-time Ashland resident Asha Deliverance, owner of Pacific Domes, while hundreds of friends struggled to express support amid rage, sorrow and appeals for a harmonious world.
“He was determined to change the world,” said Deliverance, in an interview. “He was taking it into his hands to do something. He had such big heart and big reach.”
Portland detectives told her, “He tried to calm the guy down, very kind and gentle. The guy was steamed up, so anyone who approached him, it would be scary no matter how peaceful you were,” she said.
Deliverance said her sister was on the phone with him during the attack, and the sister overheard the man commenting to the girls. He (Taliesin) kept saying he had to go help them. The man (killer) was out of control and he (Taliesin) wasn’t going to let it go. The girls were quite young, and he wasn’t going to let that happen to them.”
Deliverance said her reaction to the tragedy is that, “I can’t hate. I have nothing to say. I’m not feeling any hate for him. It’s social programming. Who is teaching this stuff to people? Any decent humanity would teach you love. I have no blame. You don’t know who raised this kid (killer). They might have brought him to this place.
“I am so sad to leave my son … I believe Taliesin made a big statement in his passing, that one of the big problems on this planet is racism.”
The victim’s godfather, Cedar Miller of Jade Mountain, said, “He had a big heart and was very bright. He was able to wrap his arms around all his family, while caring about other people. He was central to the team (where he worked, at Cadmus Environmental Consulting in Portland). He was a bright light, an avid outdoorsman, a really special person.”
Miller noted that Meche grew up in a town (Ashland) where he felt safe about opposing violence, but at that moment on the MAX, “it was his choice to intervene, though the situation was flammable and he had no idea what he was getting into. … He had a big heart and was really special.”
Talen Heater of Ashland, who called Meche his best friend, said, “His house was my second home. His family welcomed me into their arms. He was like my brother. His love and courage will remain with me and many others for the rest of my life. He was truly an incredible human being. He unfortunately lost his life standing up against hate. I was surprised by the news, but not surprised with his actions, because he stood up against something that was wrong and showed his true character, which was strength and love. It was the right thing to do, but unfortunately he died for it.”
His boyhood pal, Chris Landt of Ashland, said, “He was one of my closest and oldest friends. A lot of people felt a strong relationship to him because he was so caring and empathetic. He was an incredible human being. I’m not at all surprised he did what he did. He came from a great family and always stood up for what was right.”
The community planned to gather for a vigil at 7 p.m. Saturday in Lithia Park. Many had comments, including musician Dirk Price, father of Heater, who said, “I am very lucky to have known Taliesin. He was always such a bright, shining light in this world. My heart is broken and I can only send love to (his family). I knew him as a kid who was always smiling and sweet. From the way he spent his last few moments of life, now I know him as a hero, a young man of great courage and conviction. I hope I will be as courageous if I’m ever in a similar situation.” (This paragraph has been updated to correct Price's familial relationship.)
Teacher and friend Caroline Shaw said, “This young man stepped up to do exactly what we raised all our sons to do. To stand up for the bullied, to protect an innocent. To be slaughtered for doing this is beyond what we can comprehend. Beyond shock and grief. Since so many of our Ashland kids have moved to Portland, it could have been any one of our sons, or you or any of us. We are all in this horrific shock wave, an emotional earthquake together.”
Family friend Julie Freed, said, “I know his mother and the boy, since birth. I am devastated. I can't even talk. I feel we have to stand up and say ‘enough!’ It hits so close to home.”
Reed College, where Meche majored in economics, issued a statement Saturday expressing sadness at his passing.
"I still remember where he sat in conference and the types of probing, intelligent questions I could anticipate him asking," said professor Gambiz Ghanea Bassiri. "He was thoughtful, humble, smart, inquisitive and compassionate. He was a wonderful human being. As good as they come. And now he is a hero to me."
— John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.