It has been exactly one year since the death of our daughter, Michelle Alyssa Go. On Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, at around 9:30 a.m., Martial Simon viciously shoved Michelle in front of an oncoming subway train at the Times Square station. She was 40 years old.
We now return to Manhattan to pay our respects to our daughter in the city she came to love.
This sad event continues to reverberate. A month after Michelle’s death, Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul announced plans to help homeless New Yorkers living in subways. And in the past month, Mr. Adams has expanded these plans.
My family and I must return to New York City to deal with legal, estate and criminal issues related to Michelle’s death, despite the sad memories that the city now evokes. Our grief has been lessened by having met and become friends with the many New Yorkers who knew Michelle.
New York is the place where Michelle built her professional life, made so many friends and, most of all, enjoyed her life. It is because of her that on a regular basis, we as a family travel from our home in California to the city she called home. We hope that the city does not become a place we can only associate with her death. We pray that one day we will again see the New York that nurtured the love that Michelle had for life.
Only now, 365 days later, can I express what Michelle meant to us and how her death continues to affect us. Michelle is not the first daughter that I have lost. My wife and I lost our second daughter, when she was an infant, to crib death, her life cut short before we even knew her. Together they represent a hole in our lives that can never be filled. My wife, my son and I mourn their passing every day.
Michelle was born in 1981, the year that Ed Koch was re-elected mayor of New York after winning both the Republican and Democratic nominations. Michelle was a precocious child, much loved by others and filled with love for all those around her. She had a passion for life, respect for others, dignity and self-respect. Above all, she held faith and hope in the goodness of others. She was then, and remains now, a wondrous child to us.
Michelle spent a third of her life in New York City, studying at the N.Y.U. Stern School of Business and then flourishing at Citibank, Barclays and Deloitte. As a senior manager at Deloitte and selfless volunteer with the New York Junior League, she worked with people from all walks of life, from company leaders to the homeless. The Michelle we knew was dedicated to service, a savior rather than someone who needed to be saved.
Our family was shocked and traumatized to see how quickly news of Michelle’s death spread, but we were overcome by how others saw her and knew her only by her death. The Michelle we knew was a high school cheerleader, always smiling and up for adventure; she was the very definition of being alive. Michelle should be remembered for how she lived, not for how she died.
Michelle’s death was a call to action for many, including those who see the crime Martial Simon committed as an example of ongoing anti-Asian hate. The grief from our loss engulfs the indignities of past discrimination we have encountered. We do not have all the answers, and we may never know whether her death was motivated by racial animus. Legally, this may not matter, given that her attacker has been found mentally unfit to stand trial. But the uncertainty over Martial Simon’s mental state and the necessary but prolonged legal process only heighten our pain. As her parents, we know that no family should ever lose a child in this way nor suffer the endless anger, grief, despair and now numbness that we have felt and continue to feel one year later.
It has been sad and physically exhausting to constantly hear and see the never ending strident voices spewing hatred over social media. Like so many others, I am shocked that I, too, have become desensitized to endless pictures of violence and murder in the daily news.
Worse, I now have experienced seeing my daughter, my family and myself in the news. My Michelle was emblazoned on a Times Square electronic billboard for the world to see at a rally on Jan. 18, 2022. Our family holiday photo is in newspapers and on the television newscasts. Our lives have been changed forever.
I once thought that hatred and murder were maladies that affected only other people. Now my family are those other people. Murder has stained our family history.
If Michelle had died of Covid or cancer, my family and I would have still been overcome with grief. But we could possibly come to terms with, somehow understand and perhaps eventually accept that kind of loss.
But knowing that Michelle was murdered by being shoved in front of an oncoming train is unacceptable. That is not a fitting ending for a woman who shared the best of herself with others.
The millions of people in New York City may not agree on everything, but we can agree that New York City should be safe for those who call it home. Michelle did not live with fear of being attacked. She took the subway to work; she was not reckless about her surroundings. If Michelle were still here, she would urge us to come together to build a safer community. This is not about politics; this is about caring for each other and humanity.
We must take action to ensure that no family ever again loses a child to unprovoked violence, whether in New York City or elsewhere. We must try to balance the tensions between protecting the freedoms we cherish and upholding the responsibilities that we have as members of our communities and, indeed, our civilized society. Whatever freedoms we give to people, possessing such personal rights does not mean we can abandon people like Martial Simon to our subway systems. We cannot assume that emergency medical workers will be able to handle these neglected souls or that ordinary individuals will be able to deal with the threats posed.
Real change comes with meaningful preventive measures. This requires, among other things, adequate and continued funding for housing, treatment and other programs. We need to begin working on those solutions now, urgently, together as a community. We need to have true resolve and continued commitment so that we can honor the spirit of Michelle’s life.
Justin Go is the father of Michelle Alyssa Go and resides in California.
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