In Memoriam

One of the Saddest Things You'll Ever Read

An unspeakably sad story involving the death of a noted New York organizer.

I was quite surprised and saddened as I flipped through my Saturday Times to see that Jon Kest died. I knew Jon fairly well in my New York days. He was an organizer and activist who helped poor people in any number of ways. He helped found the Working Families Party, and, according to the obit, he conceived and organized the recent one-day action by fast food workers in New York. He was a terrific guy, and I was proud to have known him.

He died of cancer at age 57. That's plenty sad enough. But read this paragraph from the obit:

Besides his brother, Mr. Kest is survived by a sister, Amy Kest; his parents, Martin and Ruth Kest; his wife, Fran Streich; and a son, Jake Streich-Kest. A daughter, Jessie Streich-Kest, was killed in Brooklyn on Oct. 29, when she was struck by a falling tree during Hurricane Sandy.

What can one say about that? Knowing that you're facing death and having to bury your daughter under unspeakably senseless and shocking circumstances. I started shaking when I read that sentence.

When Jessie was killed, a friend pointed out to me, The New York Observer published an admiring write-up of her own efforts in behalf of poor and working people:

Neighborhood residents said the victims were out last night walking a dog when a tree was uprooted from the sidewalk and trapped the pair beneath its weight. They were discovered on Ditmas Avenue near East 18th Street early this morning.

"Jessie was an amazing young woman who was known and loved by many NYCC members, staff and allies,” said Jonathan Westin, the spokesman for the Kest family, in an emailed statement. “Jessie loved life and was deeply devoted to social justice.”

Ms. Streich-Kest, 24, was a teacher at Bushwick High School for Social Justice, the spokesman said. She attended Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn, and belonged to Facebook networks for the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University and New York University. She had previously done activist work with New Yorkers for Clean, Livable & Safe Streets, and engaged in protests against horse-drawn carriages.

Just too much to bear. I'm sure you'll join me in offering condolences to those who've had to endure these losses.