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Friends, officials gather to honor Times Square subway victim Michelle Go

“We always saw her as a rock who would drop everything for her friends," one friend said.
People hold candles during a vigil in honor of Michelle Alyssa Go, a victim of a subway attack, Jan. 18, 2022, in New York's Times Square.
People hold candles during a vigil in honor of Michelle Alyssa Go, a victim of a subway attack, on Tuesday in New York's Times Square.Yuki Iwamura / AP

Times Square’s famous steps were lit up with candles Tuesday night to honor the life of Michelle Go. Just underground from where mourners stood to remember her, 40-year-old Go died last week after being shoved in front of an oncoming train.

It’s every New Yorker’s worst fear when waiting behind that yellow line as the subway pulls in, said Ben Wei, the vigil’s organizer. Born in Chinatown and working as an advocate through Asians Fighting Injustice, he knows the feeling intimately. 

“[I] have ridden the subway since I was 10 years old,” Wei said in his speech. “Our greatest fear as a straphanger is being pushed into the tracks. It lingers in the back of our brains.” 

After two years of increased anti-Asian hate and violence, city officials stood alongside Go’s friends and denounced the hesitation and pause that comes with going out into the city. 

“The death of Michelle ripped out my heart,” Mayor Eric Adams said. “To see what happened to her and to see what has happened to our city month after month, what has happened to the AAPI community — sitting in meetings and meeting family members and elders who are afraid to walk the street, afraid to do the daily interactions that they’ve done for years — I recommitted to ensure that this will not happen in our city.”

On Saturday, police identified the suspect as 61-year-old Simon Martial. Police said Martial is homeless and has had “emotionally disturbed” encounters in the past. He’s charged with second-degree murder. 

Adams addressed the scapegoating that can often happen when people with mental illness or homeless people of color carry out attacks. It’s a problem that stems from the segregation of the city, he said, and the lack of mental health resources available. It’s also not where the majority of anti-Asian hate incidents come from.

“I know that people are really scared, people in the Asian American community and many New Yorkers,” Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., said at the vigil. “But we come together today and in the weeks and months ahead to honor the legacy of people like Michelle.”

As debates rage over whether the city needs more law enforcement, Meng said the focus needs to fall on the roots of the problem. 

“People who need mental health support have been wrongly forced into the criminal justice system instead of getting the help they need,” she said. “It’s deeply rooted in poverty and racism.” 

While politicians took their aim at the larger issues at play, Go’s friends brought the conversation back to her.  

“Michelle would probably be mortified to see so many people celebrating her,” co-worker and friend Rakesh Duggal said. “She was a private person, but she touched people in so many different ways.”

Go loved to travel, he said. She constantly sought out new experiences, and the two saw the world together before her death. But the memories Duggal treasures most are “the simple ones,” such as getting takeout, sitting in Central Park and just being together. 

“One of the things that’s still hard for me to do is refer to her in the past tense,” Kim Garnett, another co-worker, said. “On Friday, we were texting about the most mundane things.” 

Go, a Bay Area native who worked in finance at Deloitte, was known as a person who would always be there. 

“She was a caring person with a big heart,” Duggal said. “We always saw her as a rock who would drop everything for her friends.” 

On the same night a crowd gathered for her in Times Square, another ceremony to commemorate Go was held across the country. Go grew up in Berkeley and Fremont, California, and for those in the Bay Area who wanted to mourn, Asians Fighting Injustice organized a twin vigil in San Francisco.

“It’s so unfortunate that this happened to her,” a former co-worker at the San Francisco event said. “I knew her for six months, and she had such an impact on my life. I can’t imagine how her family is feeling right now.” 

Go’s family released a statement following her death, according to NBC Bay Area, but otherwise asked for space to grieve in private. 

“We are in a state of shock and grieving the loss of our daughter, sister, and friend,” the statement said. “We hope Michelle will be remembered for how she lived and not just how she died. She was a beautiful, brilliant, kind, and intelligent woman who loved her family and friends, loved to travel the world and to help others. Her life was taken too soon in a senseless act of violence, and we pray that she gets the justice she deserves.”