SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- After the tragic death of her daughter in a double-fatal hit-and-run on New Year's Eve, Hiroko Abe, who is visiting from Japan sat down exclusively with ABC7's Dion Lim, to share her heartbreak, her many questions surrounding the tragic events of that night and what she'd like the community to remember Hanako for in order to make positive change for San Francisco.
"I got a call on my cell phone from Hanako's friend's mom who is a friend of mine. When she called me she was crying and she couldn't talk and in that moment I knew something serious had happened," Abe said.
Speaking through tears, and with her daughter Hanako's photo and a vase of flowers looking over her, Hiroko Abe recalls the moment she found out what happened to her daughter New Year's Eve.
"I wanted to find out the truth."
That's when Hana and a woman named Elizabeth Platt were hit and killed police say the suspect, Troy McAlister, a repeat offender was on parole at the time, and used a stolen car.
"There was this turmoil in my heart that I just couldn't let it settle."
That turmoil began much earlier, in December of 2019, during her first visit to the US and San Francisco. Behind the smiles of a mother and daughter sightseeing at the Golden Gate Bridge and eating seafood, was a dire warning.
"She said the San Francisco we all dream of isn't the kind of city you might have expected, so please don't be disappointed. I would stay at the hotel and she warned me even if I went outside to take a walk, there were blocks we can't walk so please be careful."
Many have criticized San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin for his lenient handling of repeat offenders. After a live interview with Dion Lim shortly after the tragedy, where he did not address her questions about finding solutions, he announced he had reached out and spoken at length to Mrs. Abe.
Dion asked how the supposed 90-minute conversation went.
"I didn't know the whole picture of what exactly happened, so I wasn't sure why I had to talk to him," says Mrs. Abe. Her attorney also mentioned there was also confusion over the provided translator and how the meeting was conducted.
But now, as she grieves and puts together the pieces of what happened, she has a better grasp of what led up to Hana's death. But still, so many questions.
"It makes me question why this happened and I hope that this incident gets revealed and investigated For example was it right for the suspect to be released? Was it right for him to be on parole? Was there any kind of support he got while he was on parole? Did the suspect have enough time to think about what he has done and change his ways? Did he have support that he needs to change himself? These are the kinds of questions I'm thinking about right now."
I asked Mrs. Abe about her feelings toward Troy McAlister. She admitted she felt "hatred" but knows Hana is watching over her from heaven...and it's not what she would have wanted.
"Hanako was a very compassionate and kind person." Says her mother, who continued on to say her daughter had a knack for finding joy even in the littlest details such as cooking and being with her friends.
Mrs. Abe has one message for the community along with a mission of her own.
"Although her life was short she was a very enriched by those she met in her life. It's hard to understand why she had to die this way. Making the city safe and more beautiful again I'm sure is what my daughter also believes and hopes for. I hope this incident becomes a turning point in changing the current situation. I sincerely hope the San Francisco Hanako loved so much becomes a safe and beautiful city again."
Mrs. Abe will witness Troy McAlister's next court appearance Wednesday and hold the rescheduled memorial on Friday at the site of where the hit-and-run happened in the area of 2nd and Mission. From there she and her son will return to Japan to care for Hana's father who is quite ill and wait for her body to arrive.