Srinivas was one of us

mikel
3 min readMar 3, 2017

I did not know Srinivas Kuchibhotla — the Garmin engineer killed in Olathe, Kansas. But every time I’ve seen his picture this past week I’m hit with the deep sadness of losing someone important to my life and community.

In 2008, I travelled to India for the first time as a mapper, with a half dozen Garmin GPS units. The welcome I received was unlike anything I had ever experienced, joyous, generous, adventurous, overwhelming. Schuyler and I shared OpenStreetMap, but felt like exhausted rock stars. The people I met are still good friends, some I have the pleasure of working with every day. Some of my most precious memories are from mapping journeys to India over the years.

I’ve been inspired to repay that welcome to guests to our country in small ways. To think that anyone coming to the US receives less than that is disappointing. For Srinivas, to have his whole life ended by hate and ignorance, to rip him away from his family and friends, on the other side of the world from his first home, is utterly heartbreaking, strikes deep and leaves me bleeding.

Geographers and mappers are simultaneously the most idealistic and practical people I know. Our maps show us the entire globe, interconnected and interdependent. Then we zoom into very fine local detail, facts and data from the ground that matters — but viewed with a sharp, critical eye. You can stand anywhere on earth or fly through the sky, and know precisely where you are without a subscription or fees — just need a small device like the ones Srinivas helped build. GPS was designed in part to guide ICBMs topped with nuclear warheads. The US Government opened GPS to civilian use, creating incalculable value, and transforming the way we move through the world. A transformation of the most destructive force to a most creative one.

Sunayana Dumala, Srinivas’s widow, has asked “Do we belong here?” We can not expect the current American government to answer her properly. But we, our country, and especially the people who share their dream for a better life and a better understanding of our world through maps and technology, we should.

Yes, you belong here. You are welcome, needed, valued and we will stand by you and we will oppose those who commit acts of violence and intimidation.

Geographers, mappers, web maps API builders, location hardware hackers, GIS analysts , satellite launchers — please let Srinivas’s family know that he and they are one of us.

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mikel

Mapper. Coder. Earth Genome. OpenStreetMap Foundation. HOT. former Mapbox / Presidential Innovation Fellow. Views are my own.