PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — In the month since 2 people were stabbed to death on a MAX train when they stood up for teens being harassed by a man spewing hateful comments, the people of Portland and all of Oregon have stepped up to show support and love in various ways.
The latest comes from Rita Bhatia, who lives near the Hollywood Transit Center, volunteers at the Hollywood Senior Center and is an avid knitter. The 65-year-old was inspired to start collecting hearts in a campaign shortly after Ricky Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche were slain on May 26. A third man, Micah Fletcher, was seriously wounded in the attack.
Her idea was similar to the response following the terror bombing in Manchester, England.
“What we wanted to do was spread love, dignity and respect,” Bhatia told KOIN 6 News. “We wanted to tell people that love always wins.”
A friend told her she’d make a Facebook page for the project — #Hearts4PDX — and the response, she said, “was just nuts.”
She wanted other knitters to use their creativity to make hearts and then those hearts would be distributed throughout Portland. She put a deadline of June 24 for the project and in that short time she said she collected about 3000 hearts.
The hearts were knitted, crocheted, made from paper, some even made with Legos.
“A lot of our hearts,” she said, “came from Manchester, UK.”
She’s also gotten hearts from Vermont, West Virginia, Idaho — and more hearts are coming in.
“They were just gorgeous,” Bhatia said. “I didn’t even think I thought everything would be knitted, but there’s such creative people that they just did it all.”
The idea is to hand out the hearts and have people hang them up in visible public spots “so that people know about it and spread the love,” she said.
MAX rider Julivis De La Rosa, who got a heart, said he’s totally in favor of this idea.
“I think it’s important that people remember what happened here, so I like this a lot,” De La Rosa said. “We have to kind of combat the hate and be louder than the hate. So open displays of love I’m AOK with.”
Micah Fletcher and his family got involved with the project, she said, adding all 3 men were very brave and courageous.
“I’m not sure if you or I or anybody else would have had that presence and said jump. Maybe we would have, I don’t know,” she told KOIN 6 News. “But I think they were very, very brave men, all 3 of them, and I think the girls were brave, that they had guardian angels to take care of them.”
Crews and volunteers cleaned up the memorial for the MAX stabbing victims at the Hollywood Transit Center this past Friday. TriMet is working with the city to come up with a more permanent memorial to honor the victims.
As the hearts were handed out, people were encouraged to take a photo and use the hash tag #Hearts4PDX.
Rita Bhatia has a simple and profound hope for #Hearts4PDX: “Well, I hope it gives them comfort and it tells them that. yes. we are a united city. Like I said, love wins, and I think that’s the main thing.”