On Friday I joined Brooklyn President Marty Markowitz, Councilmember Steve Levin, and friends and family of Hope Reichbach to plant a tree at Borough Hall, Brooklyn, in memory of my friend and former roommate. This Memorial Day, I remember Hope with all the vibrancy that she brought to the world in her short 22 years.
When I met with a group of Hope's friends to write words for what would be a standing-room only service at Mt. Sinai, the memories of Hope that jumped to mind were of her empathy toward complete strangers and her incredible involvement in the community. Seeing her rush to help women carry strollers up stairs, give change to the same homeless woman every day, and tip excessively in every restaurant or cab were but small manifestations of Hope's determination to help those around her. As Councilmember Steve Levin put it on Friday, "She was magnetic, incredibly outgoing, engaging with every last soul."
Hope was the neighborhood sweetheart; the belle of the borough. She seemed to know absolutely everyone, from the cashiers at Brooklyn Fare and senior citizens at Gowanus Houses to influential politicians and business owners.
Hope would probably resent such mushy recollections; after all, she was a boxer, a relentless campaigner, and had a wry sense of humor. Clocking in at just about 5'2", she was often called "the little girl with the big voice."
After graduating from Hunter College High School in Manhattan and spending a year at Wesleyan, Hope transferred to NYU because she couldn't bear to be away from New York. She then embarked for a semester of study abroad in London, and after one semester back in the city, she departed once again to Buenos Aires, where I met her on the first floor of a student residencia in the decrepit barrio Once. She majored in Politics with a minor in Spanish, still managing to graduate a semester early from NYU with Honors ("I got honors?" she exclaimed when a golden tassel arrived in the mail months after the fact). Following her graduation, I moved to Boerum Hill at Hope's behest, where she worked as Councilmember Steve Levin's Communications Director.
When she decided to run for public office at age 21, the campaign slogan was too easy: Hope for Brooklyn.
And that she was.
During her campaign for Female District Leader of the 52nd District in Brooklyn last summer, Hope would be out the door by 5am, often standing by local subway entrances for hours handing out campaign literature and meeting constituents. She surrounded herself with friends, who she successfully recruited to help her campaign.
It has been just over a month since such a senseless tragedy, and Hope remains so vivid to all the lives that she touched. She is to blame for my incurable addiction to seltzer water, and to thank for teaching me everything I know about New York (worth mentioning), Seder and Thanksgiving dinners, and picnics at Prospect Park.
Hope, you truly taught by example, and have left an indelible mark on all those who had the privilege of meeting you. Your community was blessed to have you. In Councilmember Steve Levin's words, "Brooklyn was in Hope's DNA."
I love you Hope, and I will spend this Memorial Day missing you and remembering how much we all have to thank you for.
You can donate in memory of Hope to the Nicholas Heyward Jr. Memorial Foundation, Hope's next planned project for improving her community.