Thursday, October 16, 2003

Am writing this from work ...

It's just a little past one o'clock, and I just got in from a trip to the Laotian Organizing Project in another attempt at reaching my friend, Torm. Very wisely drove by once -- parked and walked to the office on a very busy street -- and peeked in to be sure that there was someone there to receive Assemblywoman Loni Hancock's flower basket and both our sympathy cards. There was. I could see a woman sitting at desk inside, alone.

Circled the block to visit a florist to pick up gift basket and a card from me (already had Loni's note in hand), made a selection, drove back to the office and -- as directed by a note on the door -- rang the bell.

The woman hesitated for a long time. I lifted my flower basket so that she could see my reason for being there, but she continued to dart her eyes toward then away from me.

She finally came over to the door and said something. With the street sounds at noon hour so loud, I could hear nothing. I just continued to smile and hold out my flower basket and cards hoping that she would simply open the door and take them from me. I didn't need to enter at all. It began to dawn that she probably spoke no English and had been instructed by police to not open that door to anyone. After all, Chan's killers were still out there and unidentified. What I was seeing was stark fear and I was the subject of it, at least for now.

I backed away. Looked around and discovered that there was another doorway leading from a narrow parking lot beside this building. The security doors were rolled back so that it seemed clear to me that this was the entrance used by the staff of the Laotian Center.

Finding no other way to handle the awkwardness, I placed the flower basket at that doorway with the cards leaning against it (bearing Torm's name), and walked away. This seemed the only thing to do, but it left me feeling ever more depressed being suddenly aware that this community may not be able to access what caring and sympathy many of us are feeling right now because of the language barrier. I recalled how often it was Chan and her young friends who served as the interpreters for their families. How sad this is.

Maybe Torm will just happen to stop by at some point -- and discover our gifts and feel momentarily comforted.

Could think of nothing more to do ... .