The Norman Transcript

Columns

September 25, 2012

Anatomy of an outrage about man’s death

NORMAN — If you search the news archives, you’ll find a story about a man who was killed by a train at about 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 1, where the train crosses Boyd Street in Norman.

I was coming from the University of Oklahoma that morning about 11 a.m. traveling north on Jenkins Avenue when I noticed that, just east of me, a train had stalled on the tracks and that the Norman Police Department were blocking the intersections to divert traffic. My heart sank because I knew that someone had just been killed. I wondered if it was anyone I knew.

I was heading toward Food and Shelter, a charity organization located just west of the train station, where I sometimes volunteer and where I once was employed for about a year and a half. It wasn’t until 12:30 p.m. the following day at the First Baptist Church that my friend B told me he had heard it was Mike who had been killed by the train. I couldn’t believe it. I resolved to look into it and see for sure.

That Monday morning, I talked to April, the director of Food and Shelter, and Amy, an employee, and they both confirmed that it was Mike and that April had given the police a list of Mike’s relatives for notification.

I first met Mike in fall 2010 when he suddenly showed up at Food and Shelter, where I was then employed, and he would sit every day after lunch near the telephone staring into space for extensive periods of time. I didn’t know what his situation was, but it was plain he had a mental illness.

Later, I learned his grandmother had died and there was no one to take care of him, as the rest of his family had abandoned him. He had been dumped on the steps of Food and Shelter like a dog mourning the passing of his master. So Mike became a fixture at Food and Shelter, as he would rarely venture more than a few blocks away.

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