Bigotry and racism hit us full in the face when two men were killed and a third critically injured as they came to the defense of two teenage girls who were being harassed and threatened by a man on a Portland commuter train at 5 in the afternoon last Friday.

The girls were targeted because of how they looked — one is black and her friend, a Muslim, was wearing a hijab. Witnesses said the man began a racial tirade as soon as he spotted the girls. The girls were scared and moved to the back of the train while a stranger jumped in to help. “Me and my friend were going to get off the MAX and then we turned around while they were fighting and he just started stabbing people and it was just blood everywhere and we just started running for our lives,” said 16-year-old Destinee Mangum.

The attacker had pulled a knife and slashed the throats of three of the men who had come to the aid of the girls. He then jumped from the train in a failed attempt to get away. Others from the train gave chase and were themselves threatened when the attacker turned on them. But by this time police were on the scene and the attacker was taken into custody.

One of the three stabbing victims, 23-year-old Taliesin Meche, grew up and graduated from high school in Ashland. Also killed was 53-year-old Ricky John Best. He leaves his wife, three teenage sons and a 12-year-old daughter. Micah David-Cole Fletcher, 21, was critically injured in the attack but is expected to recover.

Taliesins’ mother, Asha Deliverance, posted to her Facebook page Saturday morning, “My dear baby boy, passed on while protecting two young Muslim [sic] girls from a racist man on the train in Portland.” “He was a hero and will remain a hero on the other side of the veil. Shining bright star, I love you forever.”

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.”

“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.”

One of Taliesin's former professors said, “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.”

Taliesin's family has asked that, “In honor of his memory, we use this tragedy as an opportunity for reflection and change. We choose love.”

In contrast:

During his arraignment on Tuesday the alleged attacker, Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35, shouted, "Free speech or die, Portland. You got no safe place. This is America — get out if you don't like free speech."

As he was escorted out of the courtroom after the arraignment, Christian shouted, "Death to the enemies of America. Leave this country if you hate our freedoms. ... You call it terrorism. I call it patriotism.”

In contrast ...

According to an eyewitness who comforted Taliesin after the attack, his last words before being taken away by paramedics were, “Tell everyone on this train I love them."

Take care of someone who loves you.

— Pat Kelly lives in Medford.