Eugene Cho

in memory of james kim

james_2.jpg

when news began to spread about james kim, i had this growing suspicion that i somehow knew him.  sometimes, i make this error of thinking i know all the korean-americans.  it isn’t because of arrogance as it is to simply convey how inter-connected korean-americans are – locally, nationally, and even globally. i kept thinking that i’ve seen him somewhere; that i somehow played basketball with him orcrossed paths in san francisco.  he was 35 – a year younger than me.  as it was, the reason why he looked familiar to me was because i’ve seen him on TV on occasions on a cable program called techTV and i happen to be a recovering gadget junkie.

by now, you’ve heard the news of his tragic passing.  james kim, his wife kati, and their two small daughters, penelope and sabine, were on vacation in the pacific northwest and returning home to san francisco when  two unfortunate incidents happened:  they got lost and their car got stuck in snow in a road that is normally blocked by a locked metal gate (it unfortunately was cut open by a vandal some time earlier).  they were stranded, cold, and in the middle of the severe winter storm that we all experienced couple weeks ago.

i know that in the background of the deaths and tragedies that happen all around the world everyday, this is just one story.  yet, I can’t help but confess that i am particularly moved by this story.  perhaps, it is because there are some common  threads in our stories:  we are both korean-americans; we are both around the same age; we both live or lived in san francisco; we both wear the chunky geeky dark black glasses; we both understand the immigrant experience; and we both are married and fathers to young children.

james and his family were in the car for nine long days attempting to keep warm through a variety of different and creative ways but he eventually left his car and family to seek help.  at the water coolers at work, neighborhood cafes, and peoples’ blogs, i hear and read people questioning his senses or ‘outdoor wisdom’ of leaving the car and family behind.  folks, for goodness sakes, just stop! i don’t want to hear it.  we can all play monday morning quarterback in the comforts of our offices or in the neighbhorhood cafe surfing the web on the free wi-fi.  what he chose to do isn’t necessarily rational.  the circumstances were not rational.  as a parent, we do irrational things to demonstrate our commitment to our spouse and children. 

i did not know james kim.  but i am moved by his effort to do something to help save his wife and daughters.  today, news was released that james kim actually walked more than 16 miles (not ten as it was earlier reported) before he died trying to save his family.  one newspaper shared:

Based on what the searchers were describing, the terrain they were working in, it seems superhuman to me that he was able t cover that amount of distance given what he had, and also given that he had been nine days in a car prior to leaving it.

i did not know james kim.  but i know that he loved his wife and children and that in itself is reason to celebrate his life and his heroic effort.  thank you for your life and example. 

Filed under: asian-american, culture, family

3 Responses

  1. Blake says:

    Thank you for the touching note, Eugene. I too am very impressed and amazed by the late Mr. Kim. He was a very resourceful man and it truly is a tragedy that he didn’t survive.

    I’ve heard some people talk about it being foolish for him to leave the car, but I can honestly say that I would have done the same thing. If I have no reason to believe after 9 days that my staying in the car is going to help my family survive, I sure as heck am going to get out and go looking for that help at the risk of my life.

  2. Blake says:

    Oops… I forgot to add that I don’t see anything foolish with him getting out of the car.

    God bless his family.

  3. moni says:

    hi cho…i said the same thing…also…korean-american…do i know this guy? this family? but no, i really didn’t, but nonetheless truly touched by their story. i burn an incense and candle for James beside my father’s bc i see the kindred spirit, selfless love, commitment to family. James gave his all, and if i read the reports correctly the five miles of his footprints in the snow led the pilot down that road back to Kati and the girls. He did save them. each day they are still in my thghts and heart, and if anyone expends the energy send positive thghts of peace, light, and angels for them.

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"He must become greater; I must become less." - John 3:30 We have to remind ourselves of this truth every day lest we forget:

Our greatest calling as followers of Christ is to be faithful. Not spectacular. Not glamorous. Not popular. Not relevant.

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PS: Also, it helps to get some Vitamin D especially if you live in the rainy Northwest Thank you, Brooklyn, for the reminder. Umm, @jlin7 is a Christian but he wasn't very Christlike with me on the basketball court. He muscled me into the paint, dunked on me, mentioned my momma, and then said, "Stick with preaching." Just kidding. Kind of.

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The answer to who you serve makes all the difference... It's the day after International Women's Day - and it's still important to celebrate the contribution of women in our lives, society, and world. As we honor women all around the world, I'm also reminded of how women and children are those who are most deeply impacted by injustice - especially poverty.

Sadly, I have witnessed this reality in too many places. ​In 2012, I traveled to a remote area in Eastern Kenya as part of a @onedayswages response to a famine that struck the Horn of Africa region. This famine impacted nearly 13 million people and according to some sources, took the lives of about 250,000 people. During my trip there, I had the chance of meeting many people but the person that still remains in my memory was a Muslim woman named Sahara.

She was so hospitable in inviting us to her small and temporary home. During our conversation, I learned that ​Sahara traveled 300 kilometers (a little under 200 miles) – some by cart and some by foot – as they sought to escape the worst drought that has impacted East Africa (Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia) in the past 60 years.

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200.

She traveled about 200 miles on cart and foot. ​And all along, she was ill. If you look closely ​at the photo, you might notice the large lump in her throat - likely a large cancerous tumor.​ She did not travel alone. She traveled with her husband who I was not able to meet because he was staying with one of his five other wives in this polygamist community.  She did not travel alone. She also traveled with her six children – the youngest being about 1 and the oldest being around 8. She had just given birth to her sixth child when they began her journey. Her youngest was severely malnourished when they arrived to this new settlement in a town called Benane. 
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