I have pretty much super-glued my mouth (typing fingers) for six months. One acquaintance likened it to a voluntary exile from discussion of public issues and I had to agree. But tonight, I’m contrite. I say mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
To be sure, this is not about me. It’s about us. But mostly, it’s about our neighbor. It’s about Cora’s mom. About Laura’s next-door neighbor. It’s about tragedy. Needless tragedy.
My father died about a month ago at the age of 81. His health was poor, but his life was rich – in many ways very rich. In a retirement home, he had found a new venue of service, a place for ministry, and a home for joy. That’s a rare experience for the elderly and I am desperately pleased that he found that.
We held the requisite ceremonies to honor his life and his death. And though he and we were prepared for the event of his death, he was not supposed to die, especially on the anniversary of his marriage to my late mother.
He had fallen and broken his leg – in three places – and it necessitated a week or so in the hospital and a couple of weeks in “rehab.” Nothing about that meant he should die. He died of neglect of care. His caregivers failed him. People we trusted allowed him to acquire a bedsore that poisoned him one day before he was to return home. His compromised system could not handle it.
My brothers and sister were prepared for him to die. But not that week, not that day. Ignorant or negligent people killed him.
It’s hard to summon the requisite rage. Had he died last fall, or the winter before, we would have dealt with it. We are dealing with it now, but he was not destined to die in April of 2016.
Cora’s mom was not destined to die in May of 2016, either.
Chloe was not supposed to die Friday afternoon. And it’s killing me that she did.
Chloe was looking forward to a family wedding next Saturday. She had taken her dress to the cleaners on Spring Street. Then, she walked over to the hair salon on Vincennes to confirm an appointment for a set on Saturday morning before the wedding ceremony. Then, to home on Shelby Place.
Chloe did not make it home.
Chloe will not be at the family’s celebration of the union of two hearts.
For Chloe hazarded to cross East Spring Street in New Albany, Indiana on a sunny Friday afternoon in May. She tried to cross with the light. She never made it to the other side of the 48-foot-wide street.
I, as much as anyone, know what she hazarded. This week, I told my wife that if ever I were to be killed crossing the street that she should know it was not because I was careless. I walk through that intersection five to six times a week. I am ever vigilant. I, for one, am sure that 83-year-old Chloe was also vigilant.
Alas, vigilance is no defense against an extended-cab truck that pays no heed to fleshly obstacles to its destination.
Someone was killed. Already, chatter condemns the driver of the truck that struck Chloe and caused a hemorrhage that ended her life about a half-a-day later, the brain-bleed that no physician could prevent.
May I propose that the driver of that extended-cab pickup, who whether guilty or not is remorseful beyond belief, is only to be judged proportionately.
For we are the killers. We blithely tolerate a street grid with 48-foot-wide streets that pedestrians are expected to navigate without the sanction of government protection. Already some speculate that Chloe should not have taken the risk of crossing the street. The temptation is great to cast blame.
I’m writing here to accept blame. I know the hazards. And though I’ve spoken out about the need for rational (read: non-lethal) solutions, I have not spilled blood to save the lives of Chloe and the next victim. I have sacrificed little in money, reputation, or status to create safer streets. Oh, I’ve flapped my gums. But I failed to save Chloe.
It breaks my heart.
I began this post with reference to my own father. Dad would have died to save Chloe. He would have sacrificed. He was a legend back home. I have never sacrificed for my community the way he would have, and did.
Dad, I failed you. New Albany, I failed you. I, and we, failed Chloe.
Sunday, as the sun goes down, I will station myself at the intersection of East Spring Street and Vincennes Street to honor the memory of Chloe and to acknowledge my own guilt for her death. For I could have sacrificed more. I could have risked more to make that and every intersection safe enough for Chloe to go home and plan for a wedding next weekend.
I won’t be so arrogant as to expect anyone else to join me Sunday night in a vigil to Chloe’s memory. I will simply state that Chloe’s death will not be in vain.
We are the killers. Mea culpa.