I Live Near the Fruitvale Station.
Google Maps says it’s 1.9 miles from my house to the Fruitvale Station. Those nearly two miles take you through an interesting cross section of urban life: Along a tidy neighborhood, over a drawbridge, through an industrial park, under the freeway and into a delightfully colorful neighborhood: The Fruitvale District. In the center of this neighborhood is the Fruitvale Station.
To me the Fruitvale Station is my gateway to San Francisco.
San Francisco is where I met my husband, got married, and had two babies all in a very short amount of time, and all in one very small, one-bedroom upper Victorian flat. Like many others we choose to buy our first house in the East Bay, a decision that made sense in my head but completely tore my soul – I did indeed leave my heart in San Francisco.
But we were just an 8-minute bus ride to the Fruitvale Station, and from there just 20 minutes to the heart of downtown SF. We didn’t have a second car, so my kids grew up public-transportation savvy; knowing how to duck under the turn-styles in those glorious pre-school years when they could ride for free. We were members of the aquarium, back when it was downtown. We would ride the carousel and play at the elevated playground. We would walk under waterfalls while reading the wisdom of MLK Jr. And when our afternoons were over, we would make our way to BART, back under the Bay, through a city and back to the Fruitvale Station.
Riding BART. You really do get to see everything. And overhear everything. Maybe later I’ll tell you a few stories. I have at least that many. One is pretty funny, in a strange sort of way, one in a shocking way, and one that is nothing but really very sad. And one that was very, very scary. That story took place at the Fruitvale Station. On New Year’s Eve. No, it wasn’t that night; it was a few years later. Thank goodness the kids weren’t with us. Thank goodness it ended okay.
I haven’t seen the movie yet. I already know the story. I lived it, sort of, in real time. I still don’t know what to make of it, not the trial, not the verdict, not the new possible “shift in blame.” I just know that I would not feel safe traveling on BART without the BART Police. Yes I hate they are armed; sometimes it seems excessive. But I know what they face and since I don’t carry a gun I’m glad they do.
I hate that it happened at my station.
And I hate that it has made me afraid.
I don’t let my kids see my fear, not even when we’re driving through some of the the most neglected parts of our town. Yes, we have a car now, but we still take BART to San Francisco. The only difference is we drive to the station. It’s cheaper to park than pay two or more fares on the bus.
We never talked with the kids about Oscar Grant or Johannes Mehserle. They were only seven- and eight-years old when it happened. I don’t want them to be afraid.
Yesterday I had the privilege of an afternoon shopping in downtown San Francisco on a rare sunny August day with my beautiful daughter, my first born, whose backyard during the first two years of her life was the Arboretum in Golden Gate Park. She's a teenager now and quite a young lady.
When we got in our car to start our journey I asked her which station should we go to. With a car we now have a choice. And she says to me, “Not the Fruitvale Station. Nobody goes to the Fruitvale Station anymore.”
I had no idea she knew anything, I had no idea she had learned to be afraid. As we drove to the other station we talked, not just about the facts, but the fear. And we’ll continue our conversation with the whole family. And we’ll decide not to be afraid.
And the next time we go to San Francisco we will go back to the Fruitvale Station.
Because the Fruitvale Station is still our station.
11:23 PM PT: Update:
My husband and I just returned from seeing the movie. It is powerful, thought-provoking, and a sad reminder of the violence just beneath the surface of this wonderful city.
Thank you for the Community Spotlight. This was the first story I ever felt the need to share with you. I'm glad I did.