By Iryna Shkurhan | [email protected]
Bay Ridge residents gathered for a vigil on Monday night in honor of the victims of the deadly U-Haul rampage that killed one person and injured eight last week.
On the corner of Bay Ridge Parkway and Fifth Ave in Brooklyn, several city officials, including Mayor Eric Adams, joined community leaders to express their condolences and offer support.
On the same corner, 44 year-old YiJie Ye, a food delivery driver for Uber Eats, was intentionally struck by the assailant who violently pummeled through the streets of the city and drove onto sidewalks in a rented U-Haul truck. Ye sustained a severe head injury and died hours later in NYU Langone Hospital. According to his family, he was a hard-working single father to three teenagers and lived just blocks away.
“His American dream was not supposed to end on this street corner,” said Andrew Gounardes, State Senator of District 26. “The American dream of his children was not supposed to end in a nightmare on this street corner.”
The alleged assailant, Weng Sor, was charged with one count of second-degree murder and seven counts of attempted murder. Police said that the 63-year-old was experiencing a mental health crisis and reportedly saw an “invisible object” approaching him before he took off on the 48 minute rampage before his capture by police in Red Hook.
“Never did I think that this could happen,” said Janice Schiavo, 74, a Bay Ridge resident for over 23 years. When she heard about the vigil she encouraged about ten of her neighbors to also show up in support of the families affected.
It was not lost on the attendees that several of the victims were riding electric scooters and bicycles, a commonality with food delivery workers. And as many pointed out, almost all of the victims were also immigrants.
Mohammed Zakaria Salah Rakchi, another food delivery bike driver, survived the attack but remains hospitalized in critical condition. The 36-year-old father of two dropped off his daughter at school the morning of the attack. His wife attended the vigil but chose to not make a statement at the time.
The attack “left truly a trail of terror in this neighborhood that is haunting a lot of people to this day and has a lot of people on edge,” said Councilman Justin Brannan. “So all we can do is come together and be with each other and make sure these families know we’re here for them.”
For some residents, the attack evoked memories of a similar violent attack involving a U-Haul truck in 2017 where the driver fatally struck eight people in Manhattan. But closer to home, and less than a year ago, a man opened fire on a crowded train in the neighboring area of Sunset Park.
“Something like this could happen anywhere, but it’s shocking when it happens so close to home,” said Kay Chow, 30, a Bay Ridge resident who attended the vigil in support of the families affected.
Some community leaders offered solutions alongside condolences. Steve Mei, Director of Brooklyn Community Services at Chinese-American Planning Council, called on the city to invest in more mental health services for elderly adults.
“I can’t help but acknowledge the perpetrator happens to be an older Asian male,” said Mei and recalled two recent mass shootings in California that were carried out by elderly Asian men in their 60s and 70s.
“Part of the reality is for a lot of people in our community, there’s a cultural impact where we suffer in silence, especially older asian males,” Mei said. “We worry that by speaking out, or speaking of, we are burdening everyone else, and that becomes problematic.”
“We light these candles to honor the grief and the loss felt by so many of us gathered, and to honor the memory and the life of YiJie Ye,” said Karen Tadros of Bay Ridge Cares.
Several volunteers with the organization walked through the crowd to light the candles held in the hands of attendees as the press conference concluded.
“My heart is warmed because I know when one of us is hurting, Bay Ridge comes together in support,” said Marwa Janini, Executive Director of the Arab American Association of New York based in Bay Ridge. “It also aches because we lost one of our own and a Brooklyn family is hurting more than ever, the family of Mr. YiJie Ye.”