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The Streets Are Still The Same

ANNOUNCEMENT: There will be a service for Kelly Boyce Hurlbert on Thursday, July 11th at 2pm in F&M Park. Attendees are encouraged to participate in a bicycle ride after the service. The ride will go down Front Street to Union Street and come back to F&M Park.

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The Streets Are Still The Same

~ by guest contributor Bill Palladino

Sunday was a spectacular day to play baseball in my hometown—hot, yes, but still extraordinary. At home my family loaded up our VW bus with gear and headed for the civic center. We’ve done it many times before. The path we chose was eastbound on Washington Street, a quintessential rural American neighborhood. We were happy in the van, a rare non-bike commute across town. From the back seat, our boy was talking about his upcoming all-star game. We were all peering out the windows at the statuesque houses. Many of the homes here have Victorian bones, harkening back to a time when the roads were gravel, and the fastest moving vehicle was a horse towing a wagon.

Today, the tree-lined streets are wide enough to allow easy access to vans like mine, but also narrow enough to give a constant sense of human scale. People and their myriad of activities seem to fit and coexist well here. It’s a street we frequent. Friends live here. There’s an old courthouse with a clock tower, a park with a basketball hoop, swings and a slide. There’s fresh new asphalt signaling a triumphant tax base, and—by God—there are even white picket fences. Looking out the van’s windows, it’s a place of familiarity and of comfort.

Coming upon the scene

Flowers

Flowers placed in memorial to Kelly on July 9, 2013

Then, unintentionally, we came upon the sight of the horrific hit and run killing that occurred on this street last Friday. For my wife and I it was an instinctual gut reaction. When the stark evidence of that night’s terrors suddenly registered, the breath seemed to leave our lungs as one. Neither of us had ever met Kelly, but the next breath was seared with grief.

Our boy didn’t understand the silence from the front seat. (He’s eleven years old and wasn’t tracking the news, and we weren’t telling.) Upon seeing it all we found it impossible not to begin piecing the events together in our minds. No matter how we tried, we could find no satisfactory solution.

My wife immediately apologized for taking us down this road.

“I’m sorry,” she said under her breath.“I just didn’t realize…” And then silence again as the van made for the park—the two of us holding back tears.

Later, at home, during a serious conversation about the incident she confided that she had real concerns about the safety of her son on City streets.

“What if that were him?” and “How can I let him out when there are people with such malice?”

While I tried to console her, the seriousness of the second question stung. Is this the excess of a senseless death? Is there residual fear in the community that will keep us from our streets? Has a single violent act left a city of victims? As in crimes of this sort elsewhere, the answer is most surely yes. Yet, while a crime like this does leave many victims in its wake, it’s important to take a stand so that we’re victims only once.

Being strong in a beautiful place

For me the streets are still the same, though certainly the memory of Kelly Boyce Hurlbert (RemembertoLove.org) and the way she died colors the joy of riding my bicycle down them. I will not allow her death, no matter how violent, to dissuade me from my belief in the beauty of this city, and the richness of this community. We must meet this threat head on.

So as we all try to make sense of this, and to support the family and friends of a brilliant young woman, let us not forget that we live in a spectacular place. For the sake of Kelly’s memory and for the soul of a community in mourning, take to the streets in long pedestrian strides. Keep your helmeted kids riding their bikes with smooth strokes of the pedal. Don’t give in to the purveyors of fear. Don’t retreat.

Show all those watching what resilience really means. This is a community that we have all worked hard to build and we will not allow one senseless act to steal it from us. It’s a place that leaves me thinking every day how blessed I am to call it home.

It’s a place worth living for, a place worth fighting for, and a place worthy of a safe ride home down our own streets on a hot summer’s night.

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  1. July 10, 2013 at 7:56 am

    Bill: Thank you. Your words represent much of what has been spoken and felt within our community over the past week. Take to the streets we will…with confidence. No retreat.

  2. July 10, 2013 at 8:19 am

    Well said Bill, and here’s hoping that this horrible tragedy can make every angry driver take a good long look in the rearview mirror and realize that we are one community.

  3. anonymous
    July 10, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    I wish I could come up with some worthwhile words to describe my feelings towards this place. I am not sure which feelings dominate. Is it fear? Sadness? Betrayal? No…it’s definitely anger. Anger towards the people who poorly designed these roadways in the first place. Anger towards whoever didn’t schedule painting the lines on Washington Street sooner to help define the lanes. Anger towards our culture for making cyclists and pedestrians 2nd class citizens (actually, more like illegal aliens!) Anger towards this community for touting it’s “bicycle friendly community” horn.

    Drivers here (as opposed to other communities I’ve cycled in) know their truest rights. Truth is, cars rule, always will and may the biggest weapon win.

    Alright, I’ll admit it, maybe it is fear that dominates my feelings on this. I can’t help but think, “that could have been me, (or any number of my friends….though I didn’t know Kelly personally, she was a commuter comrade!)” This happened two blocks from my house. I used to ride that street all the time. I used to ride at that hour. Honestly, I am now way more likely to either walk or get in my car if I need to get somewhere. (The gas savings isn’t justifiable against the risk of an uninsured trip to the ER…or worse.)

    I’ve been hassled by angry drivers (seriously ONLY in THIS town!), I’ve felt the fear of potentially being followed (generally I’m not a fearful person!)…I’ve reached for my Ulock. It’s not just this one incident! Sure, maybe as time passes the intensity of my feelings will fade, but as I walk past that block and a half of a skid mark, I can’t help but wonder what it would feel like to get hit like that, to get entangled, to be dragged, to scream into the quiet of the night, to have absolutely no control.

    I am heartbroken on so many different levels. I have been trying to find my place in this community for the last four years. This place has so much heart, so much goodness, but it’s a fight. I am drained and this incident may be a deciding factor to move on. Accident or intentional….unacceptable.

    There is nothing I love more than a late night ride on a hot summers night. It is clearly sadness that dominates my feelings. A girl my age, committed to doing her part to reduce car traffic in this town, committed to sharing the love…..I SO want to believe that love wins….but so far experience has taught me that terror is a far greater force…and may the biggest weapon win.

  4. Rhonda
    July 10, 2013 at 11:11 pm

    Dear anonymous, sorry but your comments come across so vicious..anger??? I grew up in that area and we road our bikes everywhere. THIS was a tragic incident (not right considering the driver left the scene of the accident)..blaming design of roads or ” ONLY in this town” angry drivers? PLEASE reconsider your comments..our town is wonderful and sometimes horrible things happen… but we come together and reach out in “loving” kind ways. You state that you have been trying to find your way for the last 4 years in our community and it’s been a fight…it’s not our community…it’s your attitude. be kind, friendly, open, and friendship will follow

  5. henrymorge
    July 16, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    All quotes from “The Streets Are Still The Same,“ by Bill Palladino.
    “It is important to take a stand so that we are victims only once.”
    For long it has been obvious the “terrorists” won: one act of violence on their part — one horrific act of violence — and we have been paralyzed for years.
    Who can measure the discomfort millions have suffered at airports? How can one quantify “lost freedoms,” “surveillance,” “violation of privacy” — all in the name of safety, security?
    In many ways, many ways, they altered the behavior of millions upon millions of people.
    “Don’t give in to the purveyors of fear, don’t retreat.”
    We must not let the act of one lone madman restrict our mobility, taint our feeling of security in this, one of the most .secure and beautiful place on this planet.
    The act of a lone madman cannot be avoided. Some humans are insane. Their insanity will thwart the efforts of the very best, well meaning, efforts of sane people.
    “Don’t give in to the purveyors of fear, don’t retreat.”
    He must not be allowed to win. A bicycle rider anywhere in Traverse City, at any time of day or night, is less likely to die than any human speeding along in a car somewhere.
    How many people each and every year are killed in car accidents just here, in our area, in Grand traverse County? Has that caused people to drive one mile less because, well, because they could die in a car accident?
    Don’t let the lone madman win. We — all of us — should not decide to ride our bike less frequently because “he” might be out there. ( Except, perhaps, at night, on some city streets, women should simply not cycle).
    But again & again & again what must be said is don’t let them win.
    “Don’t give in to the purveyors of fear, don’t retreat. It is important to take a stand so that we are victims only once.”

  1. July 10, 2013 at 7:54 pm
  2. July 11, 2013 at 3:26 pm

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