Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Response to tragedy: Moving forward in North Portland

The following article I wrote was published in The Oregonian on 8/03/2010.


By Kay Reid

Today on North Haven and Cecelia, I saw that my elderly neighbor's nasturtiums are thriving; she is always sowing something new. Her neighbors, avid campers, have returned, their car and trailer dusty again, cranky old dog Dharma glad to be home.

Last week, as I was driving on Dwight, a teenager in the middle of the street waved me down. "You're going to scare them!!" he shouted as I rolled the car window down. It was a duck and her ducklings about to enter the street. Marsha, near the scene, said she sees this every year: The family is headed for the Columbia River and out to Sauvie Island. I went by McCoy Park on the way home and saw lots of kids. Eighty children participate in programs there every day.

It's busy at the bus stop up on Fessenden, where people bus for the usual reasons: work, appointments, friends. I know drug deals sometimes occur there. That such deals also routinely occur in Pioneer Courthouse Square, Goose Hollow and other places is little comfort.

The No. 4 Fessenden is where the seeds of sweet Billy Moore's murder first were sown in an exchange of words. The sadness in New Columbia, among renters and owners of all races, was and is palpable. How, why did that other teenager have and use that gun?

I bought a house on Haven Avenue two years ago, hoping to enjoy the experiment of New Columbia. Actual experience has wonderfully exceeded my hope. Every day, I see and hear a world of stories and people that I like. We are a neighborhood on 82 acres with people from 22 countries speaking 11 languages. We are Caucasian, African American, Mexican, Guatemalan, Colombian, Russian, Vietnamese, Hmong, Somali, Haitian, Filipino, Burundian and more. We are also from Beaverton and Irvington.

I was saddened by the recent story in The Oregonian ("Trying to restore safety," July 24) that packaged New Columbia as a haven for violence and crime. Publication of the photo of children who saw Billy murdered was insensitive and cruel. I wish the newspaper hadn't done that.

Yes, we have problems to be solved. Yes, some owners and renters are unhappy. But this is a community of strong, caring people who respond to tragedy with a sense of responsibility and collective involvement. It is a resilient, hopeful and proud community with most households wanting to live in peace.

Kay Reid is an oral historian who helps individuals, families and organizations tell their stories. She also teaches an English for Speakers of Other Languages class at New Columbia.

1 comment:

  1. Kay,

    My name is Shawn Daley and I live in New Columbia as well. I work now in the same office as Jim Strassmeier when he volunteers on Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday at OHS, and I'm a professor of education at Concordia University.

    I'm going to try to make it to your event for Oral History this Saturday (although it's my son's birthday). I'm curious if I could grab coffee with you because I too am often saddened by how New Columbia has been portrayed and would like to follow your lead.

    My email is sdaley@cu-portland.edu if you have a minute to touch base.