The Walkers

Jason   Jan 08, 2016

One year ago, on January 6th, Michael and Christine Crossland were killed while walking home on Market Street here in Salem, Oregon. The couple, known as "The Walkers", were a regular fixture on Salem streets walking to and from the grocery store or dinner.

One of the sad things that often happens in tragic collisions such as this is how individuals--people with lives, hopes, dreams, family--gradually become nothing more than statistics and numbers. Here's how a recent report referred to the crash that took their life:

Date: 1/6/2015 Time: 5:30p.m. Location: Market Street NE at Shilo Inn driveway
Injuries: Fatal
Synopsis: Vehicle turning into parking lot struck two pedestrians.
Contributing factors: Dark clothing worn by pedestrians, heavy traffic, poor / limited visibility, darkness, and fog.
Disposition: No charges or citations issued.

Aside from the obvious victim blaming and bizarre lack of even a citation for killing two people on a sidewalk, it's interesting how the language is so clinically detached. Two individuals simply become "pedestrians" and the person who struck them becomes a mere "vehicle."

I believe it's important to remember people, not in a morbid or obsessive way, but to not allow them to fade into mere statistics. I did not personally know the Crosslands, but they lived in my neighborhood and my city.

This past Wednesday on January 6th, the one year anniversary of their collision, my wife and I joined two other individuals from our community association and took a walk to remember the Crosslands. We began at the intersection of Hawthorne Street and Market Street and walked past the driveway where they were struck. We continued on down Market Street onto 21st Street, went past the home where they lived and ended up at Englewood Park where a bench has been installed with a memorial plaque for them.

It was not a large production event, but it was a meaningful walk and caused us to reflect on them as people and the impact their decisions have on us. "The Walkers" inspired a community by the little decisions they made each day. My hope is that as drops of water coalesce into a river downstream, those involved in events such as this will move our city and culture to a place where victim blaming is considered crass, and we are consistently and proactively making our built environment safe and welcoming for all people.


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