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Thursday, April 25, 2013

[Updated] Losing Jamie Hahn: Raleigh and the power of passionate people

Posted by on Thu, Apr 25, 2013 at 3:53 PM

Jamie and Nation Hahn (left and center) at an Obama rally last year
  • Photo by Gerda Stein
  • Jamie and Nation Hahn (left and center; the person at right is unidentified their friend David Blair) at an Obama rally last year

[Update, Friday, 11 a.m.: Visitation tonight at Pullen Baptist has been extended to accommodate an expected large turnout. The time is now 5-8 p.m. Also, Jamie was on the board of the Hope Center at Pullen, a ministry aimed at aiding the homeless, and she was helping to organize their annual fundraising dinner Sunday night. The family has established a memorial fund for the Hope Center and asks that, in lieu of flowers, folks contribute money to the fund. Designate the contributions to the "Raising Hope Dinner." Separate from that, friends are raising money to help the Hahn family pay for medical expenses from this tragedy via a website. Jamie's obituary is here.]

My original post from yesterday follows:

It's a tribute to Jamie Hahn and to Nation Hahn how many people in Raleigh are grieving her death. I just saw, on social media, that some folks are raising money to help pay the medical bills by making RaleighNation t-shirts. (And now they've added JamieNation t-shirts.)

Jamie and Nation are the social media—they epitomize its promise and very best possibilities—so this strikes an exact right note. Another thing: Will Hardison, who signed the t-shirt pitch, knows Nation only slightly and I gather from what he wrote that he didn’t know Jamie; but he clearly was touched by them, and by the fact that so many others in Raleigh were touched by them. That’s how the world’s supposed to work, yes?

As I read his piece, I heard the Joni Mitchell song in my head: Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?

I say that for myself. Others knew what they had with Jamie and still have with Nation. Gary Pearce, who worked with them, said it well on his blog yesterday:

“Together, Jamie and Nation had a unique quality that people responded to. They liked people. Their home was a familiar gathering place. People had fun.

Jamie liked politics, and she was good at it. She exemplified all that is good in politics.”

Funeral services are Saturday at 11 a.m. at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, their home church, 1801 Hillsborough St. in Raleigh. There's visitation at the church Friday evening, 6-8.


I knew Jamie to say hello and chat about politics. She was always smiling, always welcoming, and not because we were close; it was because—I realize now—that’s the way she was with everyone. I know Nation better, and he’s helped me connect to some stories. We’re friends, but I wouldn’t have said we were close friends before. Only in this tragedy do I register what I knew before, had I been more aware, that Nation makes close friends easily—Jamie was his soul mate in that—and they have many, many of them, young and old. They never met a stranger.

The news that Jamie was attacked and critically injured — and that Nation was injured — just rocked me when I learned of it Tuesday morning. The violence of the attack … against two of the nicest, most positive people you could imagine. Why would anyone … ?

But there’s never a good answer to questions like that. I was grateful for the prayer service at Pullen Baptist Church that evening and for the Rev. Nancy Petty, as I always am. I went to WakeMed later and was one of a hundred or more people who came to the hospital over the course of the night until Jamie died just before 2 a.m. I was grateful to be there, too, and for the fact that Nation welcomed our desire to be part of a community-family supporting him—while he supported us.

Politics can be a nasty business. It can also be an uplifting, wonderful one. At its best, it’s about making connections, building networks, and gathering power, not for power’s sake and certainly not for self-advancement, but for the chance to make the world a better place and help people to find their way in it. Especially people in need.

If this sounds trite, it’s only because ours is a cynical time and we’ve seen so many people grasp for political power only to do the wrong things with it—and so few do right.

Jamie and Nation are two who're in it to do right. Were in it? No, she’s still in it, through him.

And among that too-small group of idealists, Jamie and Nation are two who were blessed with a rare combination of talent, warmth, insight and energy—and blessed with each other.

They’re naturals at connecting to people, and at helping people connect to one another, which is why politics so suited and the tools of the social media fit so well in their hands: Nation, the director of engagement at New Kind, the consulting firm, and Jamie, the fundraiser.

They're helpers. You didn't really even need to ask.


And, of course, they’re under 30. Knowing that they’d be on the job helped me—I'm twice their age—believe the future could be better, and that I could look forward in my declining years to watching them in their prime, rising to the challenges my generation is leaving behind.

I know now, I was counting on getting to know them better.

But Jamie's gone.

So I’m grieving for Nation, for myself and, yes, it's a big loss for Raleigh.

Nation will go forward, of that I have no doubt. He’ll draw on Jamie’s memory. He’ll draw on us, and we'll need to be there for him. As the New Kind slogan says, "Nothing is more powerful than a community of passionate people."

A RaleighNation, indeed.

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