Teen burned on AC Transit bus speaks out for first time

For the first time, we're hearing from an 18-year-old who suffered serious burns after being set on fire on an AC Transit bus.
November 28, 2013 6:35:30 PM PST
This is shaping up to be a joyful holiday for the family of an East Bay hate crime victim. Sasha Fleischman suffered terrible burns when a 16-year-old boy set Sasha's skirt on fire earlier this month on an AC Transit bus.

Sasha was released from the hospital on Wednesday and spoke for the first time to reporters on Thanksgiving Day.

The 18-year-old is still heavily bandaged, but doesn't seem to want to dwell on one young person's bad act. There's no apparent bitterness, just a clear desire to move forward in the little ways, in the most positive ways possible.

"I'm really glad just to be home," Sasha said.

For Sasha Fleischman, this Thanksgiving is unlike any other. Home with family, safe, and surrounded by the well-wishes of hundreds of people, friends, and strangers alike.

"When I was in the hospital, every day my parents would visit and bring a stack of cards that this high, and most of them from total strangers," the 18-year-old said.

"We are incredibly thankful to have Sasha not just home but with us at all, period," said Sasha's father, Karl Fleischman.

Sasha recounts, "I look down and my skirt is on fire."

The teen's life changed forever when a 16-year-old boy lit the sleeping Sasha's skirt on fire on an AC Transit bus.

"My first instinct was kind of dumb, which was to wave it around and try to put it out," Sasha said. "But that just kind of fans the flames and makes it bigger."

Other passengers helped put out the flames. Sasha was seriously burned, but alive.

The boy who set the fire, Richard Thomas, has been charged as an adult with two felony hate crimes.

"They probably didn't realize how big of a deal it was going to be, how harmful it would be," Sasha said. "I don't want to be too harsh because people do dumb things, especially when they're teenagers. If I had my way, I'd have him tried as a juvenile."

Sasha identifies as neither male nor female. The Fleischman family uses pronouns like "they" and "them" when referring to the Maybeck High School senior.

Earlier this year, Sasha made the choice to wear skirts full-time.

"I identified as agender," Sasha said. "Which, more specifically, is I don't have a gender."

Despite what happened on the bus that day, Sash will return to riding buses with friends. And will continue to wear skirts.

"I'm going to keep wearing a skirt," Sasha said. "That's something I'm not going to give up. It's a big part of who I am. I don't like pants.


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