Two days after the brutal killing of Christina Yuna Lee in her Chinatown apartment, New Yorkers continue to grapple with the seemingly senseless act of violence.
But for Asian women in New York, it’s a case that strikes particularly close to home.
Samantha Coria of Manhattan first learned of the killing on TikTok, but wasn’t sure if the information was reliable.
Then she started seeing news articles about what happened to Yuna Lee, 35, who was allegedly stabbed 40 times in her apartment, according to police.
“Once I learned that it was real, I just had full body chills,” Samantha Coria, 32, said.
Coria saw herself in Yuna Lee as a 30-something Asian woman who used to live alone in Chinatown near Christie Street, where the attack took place.
She said she is horrified by the similarities in their lives, as well as the gruesome details of her killing in which police said the suspect allegedly followed Yuna Lee into her apartment and stabbed her with her own kitchen knife.
“I’m very unsettled right now,” Coria said.
While it’s unclear whether Yuna Lee was targeted for her race, her death comes at a time when the Asian community has been reeling from an uptick in harassment and attacks since the start of the pandemic.
Anti-Asian incidents increased by 343% to 133 in 2021 compared with 30 incidents the previous year, according to NYPD.
And a recent string of high-profile attacks, such as the death of Michelle Go, 40, after she was pushed onto the subway tracks at Times Square last month, have shaken the community.
“I’m not sure who to blame and I'm not sure who to hold accountable or responsible because this shouldn't have happened to an Asian American woman or to anybody,” Coria said.
Others also worry about how to feel more protected.
“I feel upset that there are conditions in our city that have allowed this to happen,” Kristina Kang, 31, of Manhattan, said. “And it's very deep and a problem that feels very difficult to solve, which then makes me feel overwhelmed that I don't know how the city is going to become or feel safe enough.”
Both Kang and Coria said the recent attack has forced them to reexamine how they operate in the city.
Coria said normally enjoys walking to her apartment in the Financial District from the Lower East Side, but is going to avoid doing that for now. She also said she has stopped walking with headphones on and has signed up for self-defense classes.
Kang said she already operates from a place of hypervigilance.
“How am I getting home? How am I being aware of my surroundings?” Kang said. “I don't know that I can even try to be more aware of my surroundings because I feel like I've already been trying to do that.”
The deaths of Yuna Lee, Go and Yao Pan Ma, the 61-year-old man who died on New Year’s Eve after a brutal attack in April while collecting cans in Harlem raise questions about the city’s systems in place to protect its residents.
Eva Chan, a co-founder of the Upper Manhattan Asian American Alliance, said while she doesn’t advocate for carceral punishment as the best solution, she points to the need for social services to address the root issues causing crime.
“To the extent the government can support it, giving [people] medical care, psychiatric beds or whatnot, or supportive housing — that would be the best,” Chan said.
Of the 9,081 incidents reported nationally from March 19, 2020, to June 30, 2021, to Stop AAPI Hate, a nonprofit reporting forum, a disproportionate number targeted women.
It’s why Asian women are feeling particularly vulnerable right now, said Grace Lee, a community activist who lives in Lower Manhattan.
“I think it's really important that our community is not only listened to but heard during this difficult time,” Lee, who is also running for state Assembly, said. “And we need to be able to have an opportunity to express our concerns, to express our fears, and to be taken seriously.”
The fact that Yuna Lee was attacked and died in her own apartment, according to police, is what’s forcing Coria to rethink everything about her safety.
“Nothing is safe basically — that's basically what this is telling me,” she said.