When Alicia Morrison-Fagbemi found out Ruth Bader Ginsburg had passed away, she cried for her and for her three daughters, Savannah, 12, Olivia, 10, and Leah, 4. The next day, she and her husband Mike took them to Ginsburg’s childhood home at 1584 E 9th Street in Midwood, Brooklyn.
Outside the modest two-story home, well-wishers had gathered to leave flowers on the doorstep. Some left rocks, the Jewish tradition of honoring the dead. Mike and Alicia stood across the street with their three girls, the youngest perched on his shoulders.
Savannah and Olivia, the two oldest, learned about Ginsburg from young adult books – I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark, and Who is Ruth Bader Ginsburg? – as well as the 2019 biopic On the Basis of Sex, in which she’s played by Felicity Jones. This inspired Savannah to write a report on her for middle school.
“She was a really powerful woman,” she says. “I thought she’d never pass away.”
“She can never be replaced,” Olivia said, agreeing with her older sister. “If something came towards her, she kept moving past it.” “She was unstoppable,” Savannah said.
Mike said that Ginsburg’s legacy was teaching us that it’s never just one person who makes change, but that it’s up to all of us. “This is an inflection point in our democracy,” he said. “We have to continue to advance her ideas.”
Also outside the home were Cathy Pugh and her daughter Ava. On Friday, her family had driven up to see her parents and celebrate her birthday. It was there that she got the call from a friend who said “Drink a toast to RBG, she just died.” She tried to hide the news from her parents, who she describes as “die-hard Democrats,” but eventually everyone found out.
“Between the Jewish new year, RBG and my birthday, I’ll never forget 2020,” she jokes.
Pugh, like Ginsburg, grew up in Brooklyn and lives in Washington D.C., so she felt a special kinship with the Justice. She had just taken her daughter to see the Columbia University campus in Morningside Heights, where Ginsburg attended law school.
I asked Ava what lessons she took from Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “I’m not sure,” she said, turning to her mother. “Do you have any thoughts?”
“Live your life with integrity,” she said.