Just one month after Derrick Griffith, the dean of student affairs and enrollment management at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, received his doctorate of philosophy in urban education, it was confirmed that he was among those who died in Philadelphia on Tuesday night.
Griffith’s career path was one that was rooted in his love for education and his community. The former school principal founded the City University of New York Preparatory Transitional High School in 2003 and also served as the executive director of Groundwork Inc. The organization was “formed to support young people living in high poverty urban communities,” the Associated Press reported.
It wasn’t until 2011 that the 42-year-old joined Medgar Evans College as an assistant provost with the type of attitude and spirit that was infectious to those around him. The college released a statement Thursday morning that confirmed the heart-breaking news, describing Griffith as a “pillar in the community” and admiring the passion he always had for his work.
The statement said he “served the students of Medgar Evans and the greater community with passion,” always took on the role of a “champion for the downtrodden” and “encouraged students to pursue education with vigor.”
Officials at the school are hoping those lessons and that spirit will continue to thrive at the college even as they bid the beloved educator farewell. The statement added that Griffith “will be sorely missed.”
The other Amtrak passengers that have been confirmed as dead include 48-year-old Associated Press video software architect Jim Gaines, 20-year-old student athlete and former Channel View School for Research valedictorian Justin Zemser, senior vice president in the Hospitality Finance Group for Wells Fargo in New York City Abid Gilani and Rachel Jacobs, the 39-year-old mother of two and new CEO of the educational software startup ApprenNet.
Seven people were confirmed dead in the crash but the other two have not been publicly identified.
More than 200 people were reportedly injured in the crash.
Long time Ecolab employee Bob Gildersleeve is reportedly still missing as his family continues their desperate search for him.
His family acknowledged that he had a ticket for the train that derailed and said it was very likely he was onboard during the crash.
Family members told the Associated Press that they have not been able to receive any information from Amtrak about his whereabouts.
While the crash is still being investigated, the incident has already given new life to a debate about the amount of funding designated to infrastructure. It is still unclear what caused the derailment, but some suggest that seven lives could have been saved if America wasn’t cutting corners on its budgets.
“One thing we know for sure is that, for decades now, the United States has been allowing its public infrastructure to decay,” The New Yorker wrote of the derailment. “In 2013, the American Society of Civil Engineers issued a report saying that it would take roughly $3.6 trillion worth of repairs and retrofitting merely to return the nation’s roads, railways, and airports to a safe and durable state.”
The report also revealed that one in nine of America’s bridges were structurally deficient according to the Federal Highway Administration. That troubling fact means there are many bridges that are putting hundreds, maybe thousands, of lives at risk every time another car makes its away across the weakening structure.
President Obama proposed a transportation bill that would pledge a whopping $500 billion to repairing infrastructure over the course of six years but, like much of his proposed legislation, the bill has failed to go far in the presence of a heavily divided Congress.
Only time will tell if this devastating crash was the result of poor infrastructure as the probe is currently focusing on the train’s engineer. Reports revealed that the train was traveling at speeds higher than 100 mph, more than twice the speed limit, even as it approached a sharp turn.
Investigators have not determined if that speed alone was solely responsible for the train’s derailment.