The Streets Are Still The Same
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
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.