James Kim, a Father and a Hero

Posted by AC Team on Wednesday, 06 December 2006.

James Kim, a Father and a Hero

I don't know what it is, but, even after all these years, I feel a sense of pride when I see an Asian face in a prominent position in the media.

I was proud, then, to see James Kim's smiling alongside his many pieces on CNET's site, explaining and reviewing digital music products, making them understandable to geeks and non-geeks alike. He was a senior editor at CNET, specializing in reviews of mp.3 players. He also appeared on the site's online show, Crave, talking gadgets in an unassuming style. He had an easy laugh, and got others to laugh with him.

So it was a disturbing piece of news to hear, in late November, that he and his family were missing in the wintry woods of southern Oregon, where theyd gone on a Thanksgiving trip from their home in San Francisco.

James, 35, his wife Kati, 30, and their two daughters, four year-old Penelope and seven month-old Sabine, came from San Franciscofrom my own neighborhood, in fact: Noe Valley, where James and Kati owned an an apothecary shop. They also had a small clothing store in the Haight-Ashbury, and James worked full-time at CNET. This was a handsome, happy family, full of life and future.

And then they got lost in the Oregon wilderness. For agonizing days, there was no word of the family, which had traveled north in a station wagon. On December 4, a helicopter pilot spotted Kati and the girls, and they were rescued. We then learned that James had set off, in the snow and through unknown territory in the coastal mountains of Oregon, seeking help. He never knew that his family had been saved, and he hiked and walked and struggled until he was overtaken by hypothermia. Two days after Kati, Penelope and Sabine were rescued, another helicopter pilot found James. But it was too late.

Throughout his neighborhood, his company, his city, and, because of coverage in the media and on the Internet, around the country, people grieved. These days, the way news and information travel, it's easy to get to know a manand his familyintimately. We got to knowand to care forthe Kims, to offer prayers for their safe return, to write those prayers to special Web sites set up by friends. And, now, to write condolences.

Already, some have begun second-guessing the Kims, or offering advice and warnings to others who might be setting off on automobile trips into unknown areas. This is not the time for such writings. In fact, there are no writings that could bring comfort to Kati and her family, the Flemings; to James and his family, the Kims, and to their extended families and many friends.

Having lost a brother at a young age, I can only feel for them. I know that there will only be grief for a long time, and that healing may take years. Loss is doubly cruel when it comes during the holidays. Trimming our Christmas tree a few minutes ago, and hearing holiday music, I think about Kati and the girls. They will be surrounded and comforted by family, no doubt, but, for now, there is no comfort. Catching the news online, I think about his colleagues at CNET, who are honoring him by collecting funds from well-wishers for the Kim familyand by canceling holiday parties. But he was a valuable member of the team there, and he will long be missed.

"James Kim is a hero," Neil Ashe, CEO of CNET said. "And obviously the steps that Kati took to keep the kids safe, and the steps that James took to try to bring his family to safety, were heroic."

Yes, he was heroic, and he is a hero, emphasis on the "is." He's heroic on several levels, and he will remain with us as long as friends and family hold good memories of him.

I never knew James Kim. But his warm smile, over a byline I was proud to see, will keep him alive for me.