CHERIE QUEROL MORENO: Life of caring cut short

Michelle Alyssa Go’s life is suddenly over, prompting her family to urge those who knew her to remember “how she lived and not just how she died.”

For 10 years, the New Yorker had been serving at The Junior League, one of the oldest women’s volunteer organizations in this country.  Founded in 1901 by social activist Mary Harriman, the Junior League’s mission today remains as it was 121 years ago:  “To develop exceptionally qualified civic leaders who collaborate with community partners to identify a community’s most urgent needs and address them with meaningful and relevant programs and initiatives that not only improve lives, but also change the way people think.”

That Michelle Go was drawn to the nonprofit was unsurprising to her intimates.  The California native who owned diplomas from UCLA and NYU cared about society’s most vulnerable, they say.  And so on top of her day job as senior manager at the global accounting leader Deloitte, she found time to volunteer with Junior League as an advocate for empowerment.

“Michelle’s focus populations were seniors, recovering homeless, immigrants, and under resourced and academically struggling elementary and middle school kids and their parents,’’ a spokesperson for the organization told reporters.  “She helped them prepare to enter or re-enter the workforce by developing their professional skills of resume writing, interviewing, and networking, and by making sound decisions in matters of personal finance.”

In the course of her typical day January 15, Michelle waited to board a train at the Times Square subway station when police say she was shoved by a total stranger into the tracks and onto the path of an oncoming train.  The unprovoked attack robbed a human being of a meaningful life, a family of a loving daughter and sister, a community of a friend and caring ally who might have been able to lend him a hand as was her calling.

She was 40.

Her family issued a statement Jan. 18 expressing shock and sadness amid their grief.

“Her life was taken too soon in a senseless act of violence, and we pray that she gets the justice she deserves,” they said.

While requesting privacy from the media, they gave an insight into their daughter and what would be her final birthday.

“Michelle had a love of life, loved her family, and loved to meet and work with people.  She made and kept up with countless friends from grade school to college to graduate school and at her workplaces. Her friends would tell us that Michelle was smart, funny, big hearted and a real role model,” they said.  “Michelle loved to travel the world to meet new people and different cultures. Most recently, Michelle travelled to the Maldives with friends to celebrate her 40th birthday and the New Year 2022.”

Authorities described her attacker as a “homeless man” who reportedly has a history of schizophrenia.

The sister of 61-year-old Martial Simon told reporters her brother has been sick and needs help.

“People who saw him know he’s crazy… he’s been on medication for over 20 years and in and out of mental hospitals in New York,” Josette Simon told reporters.  “My heart goes out to whoever lost their loved one, whether it was a mother, a sister, a daughter.  I just would like to put that out there, to apologize, to feel for them.”

A social media post reminded users to focus on the life lost instead of the one that took it.

“The death of Michelle ripped out my heart, to see what happened to her, and to see what has happened in our city, months after months. What has happened to the AAPI community,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams said at the vigil for Michelle Go. “I don’t want the knee-jerk reaction of going through our subway system and going through our streets and demonizing those who have slipped through the cracks and did not receive the mental health treatment that they deserve. We must ensure that we have a plan of intervention and prevention.”

Adams’ statement is not novel.

Last year a video spurred outrage as it showed a Filipina American being kicked and mauled by a man at least twice her size on a Manhattan sidewalk.  Employees of a building nearby shut the door, evading involvement instead of helping the woman.  The attacker reportedly was mentally ill and had served time for beating his mother to death with a hammer but had been released.

Simon reportedly turned himself in. He has been charged with second-degree murder.  The tragedy occurred amid the surge of hate crimes against Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, and police say they were investigating the killing to determine motive.

Local AAPI officials and activists condemned the fatal attack.  Hate crimes against Asian – Pacific Islander Americans in New York rose by 361%, according to NBC News.

Michelle Go’s death shines the light yet again on the failure of the criminal justice system to protect citizens from people who are a danger to themselves and others, and for the health and human service community to provide services for persons who are mentally ill.