(Note: Seattle's Denise Louie Education Center was named after her by admirers who noted her participation on the board of a community planning agency called Interim (International District Improvement Assocation) at the time of her death. The reopening of Forza Coffee location mentioned below can be accessed here as well as within previous editions of the News Tribune. - MS)
Transitioning from a suburban high school to a big city university to young adulthood in the mid-seventies holds a number of vivid moments for me. This also included a sober introduction to the realities of ahem ...post-teenage life.
One such occasion was listening to a local television report that a friendly, personable and petite Chinese-American woman, Seattle resident, community volunteer and former UW student of my acquaintance by the name of Denise Louie - who'd frequently occupied the adjoining chair next to my preferred location-of-choice in our mutual Asian American Studies class lost her life in 1977 while dining with friends she was visiting in San Francisco's Chinatown when the party was caught in gunfire between rival parties.
The second occasion within this time frame occurred when a very pleasant young man I was briefly acquainted through a summer quarter junior high tennis class I was enrolled made the decision to stop by a downtown Seattle restaurant after work. He was inadvertently shot and killed while patronizing the eatery at the same time as a former disgruntled customer armed with a gun.
Throw in more news stories related to the deaths of at least two attractive teen to twenty-something young women with long straight hair and bright smiles who attended the UW where I was enrolled who mysteriously disappeared from nearby campus neighborhoods and were later determined to be victims of a notorious serial murderer.
For a shy, introverted and fairly sheltered girl from a far sleepier Seattle metro area circa 1960's, the idea one's budding life could be cut short through while going about the business of ordinary life was then quite relatively new and shocking. I would become personally aware that so-called safe places could change at the drop of a hat and nice people couldn't rely on being just nice. Unfortunately a good number of years went by before I no longer felt even the smallest tinge of anxiety when reading about a related event or having to pass through or by those same now highlighted locations.
What uncertainty I then harbored was in turn inadvertently magnified by my own families' legacy of leftover anxiety, repressed feelings and unsettled sense of violation (whether you agree or disagree) over being unfairly targeted and forcibly interned by their own government during World War II.
In hindsight primarily due to the fact it was allowed to be unaddressed (they coped by trying to completely mentally surpress the whole chapter so it never came to the light of day) I was silently encouraged from childhood to carry far too many issues at a time.
It's equally important to emphasize that while classmates in question did not figure prominently among my closest personal circle of family and friends - we are all linked in community. To my great surprise some of this same old unease came wandering back this winter as a layperson and sideline reader/bystander while following the terrible story of unprovoked murders borne by members of the Western Washington law enforcement community and their extended families in recent months!
So it was with special appreciation that my Japanese-American girlfriend and I were able to stop and yes, personally witness and be enveloped by the warm, inviting and peaceful sense of place that radiated this evening from inside Forza Coffee in Parkland,WA. Local readers familiar with media coverage of the terrible tragedy last November that took the lives of four dedicated members of the City of Lakewood's police department may be equally aware of media reports that the cafe has since been reclaimed and taken back in love and solidarity by so many in the community including but not limited to dedicated, concerted and compassionate owners, staffers, regular customers, local government, law enforcement and organizations in the surrounding faith and business communities.
The kind of disturbing loss as mentioned earlier which seemed to cling so tightly to the aforementioned places in my college-era memories does not appear to have overwhelmed the warm and inviting atmosphere which shone out the windows, the faces of staff at Forza's. Hope has not been extinguished. To a passing stranger as myself this accomplishment is of great uplift and inspiration.
I would prefer to believe on those darkest days most of us in this world endeavor in our own individual and unique ways during our best moments to keep the spirit of humanity alive and aflame during an often all too dark, challenging and uncertain interval.