Wednesday's announcement that TriMet has named the new Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Bridge after the murderous orca Tilikum has led to renewed interest in the life and homicides of this beloved killer whale.
The transit agency had considered other names for the bridge, but ruled out the most-suggested name, that of popular street musician "Working" Kirk Reeves, after determining that he lacked "historical and lasting significance." The naming committee also spurned pioneering feminist publisher Abigail Scott Duniway.
That's understandable—because whatever their accomplishments, neither Reeves nor Duniway murdered three people.
Trimet's bridge namers considered a number of criteria before choosing the name of a homicidal fish that has delighted millions of small children with skillful acrobatics and natural majesty. The questions considered by the naming committee included "Is it inspirational? If so, why?" and "Does it reflect how a bridge connects people? If so, how?"
At least three of the people Tilikum met are connected by being dead.
But while the legend of Tilikum is well known, spread through sources such as Youtube videos of tragic and protracted assaults in which dedicated SeaWorld trainers are repeatedly dragged to the bottom of clear blue pools and gnawed on like chew toys in front of thousands of people, the real Tilikum remains elusive to most.
Here are some fun facts about the recently honored Tilikum you might not have known—until now.
- In all official comments on the matter, TriMet officials have cleverly disguised their tribute to this murderous fish by stressing that the name Tilikum "symbolizes coming together."
- More precisely, Tilikum means "people" in the Chinook Wawa language. People are what Tilikum ate.
- Tilikum was captured off the coast of Iceland. In an ironic twist, the Icelandic people are historically known to kill and eat orcas and other fish.
- Tilikum is a film star. Thanks to the film Blackfish, he has been seen brutally and remorselessly killing people in a documentary translated into three different languages... one for each murder!
- Tilikum weighs 12,000 pounds.
- In many ways, Tilikum is a real-life counterpart to Free Willy, except that (1) nobody freed him, and (2) instead of befriending people, he killed them.
- Tilikum is the most famous sufferer of dorsal fin erectile dysfunction in America. As a tribute, TriMet made sure that the banner announcing the name had a little bit of trouble unfurling. "You can't blame the banner for having a little stage fright," officials said, and everyone probably laughed.
- No one is allowed to touch Tilikum, and he is thought to have been abused as a pup.
- The subtitle of the bridge is "Bridge of the People." The subtext of the bridge is that it is safer for people when they are not in the water.
- Even after three murders, Tilikum still performs today in the SeaWorld tanks. The real question in the minds of fans is, what will he do next?
No TriMet officials were harmed during the writing of this listicle.