Philando Castile's death sent shockwaves through the country this week as it live streamed on Facebook, a nightmare-ish extension of the social media revolution. Castile's officer-involved shooting death is already a seminal moment in the Black Lives Matter movement, but to the students at the JJ Hill Montessori School in St. Paul, Minnesota where Castile worked, the only thing that matters is that their favorite cafeteria worker is gone. A letter written by a student at the school where Philando Castile worked is going viral for its heartbreaking innocence and sincerity, and it's a reminder to everyone that Castile really wasn't just a hashtag.
Chad Eisen-Ramgren told Mic that the note was penned by his 8-year-old daughter, Leila, who attended the school's vigil for Castile on Thursday. Leila wanted to write a letter to her favorite lunch man, whom she called "Mr. Phil." According to her dad, Leila also included her lunch number on the front of the card, her connection to Mr. Phil. The letter reads: "This year I was going to give you a gift but then you died but I'm giving you a gift anyway! You have the biggest heart ever I really miss you. I really really miss you you're the best lunch man we could ever have I wish you were alive. You have rainbows in your heart!"
Castile worked as a cafeteria supervisor at his school, where he earned the respect of his colleagues and the students. According to coworkers, he memorized the names of all 500 students at the school, as well as their food allergies. “He remembered their names. He remembered who couldn’t have milk. He knew what they could have to eat and what they couldn’t,” Joan Edman, one of Castile's coworkers, told Time. “This was a real guy. He made a real contribution. Yes, black lives matter. But this man mattered.”
With these high profile shootings, much of the media coverage is focused on the national impact, and it's easy to forget that there's a real community that is mourning a real loss. In this particular case, Castile was a pillar of his community and a loved and respected man, and it's all the more reason that they need time to heal. This little girl's letter is a reminder that Castile's death shouldn't be politicized or manipulated, because there's still a community of people who are still grieving.
Philando Castile's death is a tragedy on many levels, but perhaps the most important level is the impact on his community. If you're mourning for Philando Castile, remember the people who knew and cared for him too, because their loss is the deepest.