I vaguely remember hearing that earlier this week there had been a traffic fatality on 20th and Madison. At the time I couldn’t place the location…that sounds like an intersection near me…why can’t I place it…oh! Then it hit me, it was a few blocks from my place and was an intersection that I passed through quite a few times a week. This spot was on my bike route to work and I also pass this area whenever I go for a walk. Once I was able to mentally place where this was, the severity of trauma seemed odd to me. 20th and Madison was pretty residential, one of the many eclectic neighborhood pockets in this town. This intersection is off of a low-key, 25-mph restaurant/shopping artery radiating out from downtown (if you could consider that the heart).
This morning I rode my bike into work—it’s such a beautiful morning and my awesome ride is also all downhill. (Returning home and the steady incline are another story, but for purposes of continuity we’ll stick with the ride in). The last thing I was thinking about was the traffic fatality that occurred earlier this week; it had completely dropped off of my radar in the swirl of term papers, finals, work presentations, fiscal years ending, performance reviews, and personal recreational pursuits. When I rode past the fateful intersection, I notice the graphic design/printing business on the corner had a boarded up entrance. Upon closer inspection, I also noticed a sign asking customers to enter from the rear and also some kind of makeshift memorial. I was perplexed, still not connecting the dots about the fatality earlier this week, and started to read some of the messages placed there in hopes that it would give me a clue as to what happened. I am not sure why, but at first I thought there was a fire in the building and this man who passed away was an employee. That was not the case.
As I read the messages, it did little to clear up the mystery and added to my heavy heart. There was a picture, the victim looked young. There were heartbreaking notes from his parents and friends, and a basketball with a touching message written on it with a sharpie. There were bouquets of flowers wrapped in paper that were still perky and fresh. This did little to connect the dots for me and as I observed the boarded up business entrance, I noticed that the building looked as if something crashed into it and the plywood was covering up the gaping hole where the front doors had been.
At that moment, I had an epiphany: this is where a car involved in the fatality crashed.
I got back on my bike and rode away, tears welling up in my eyes. I started to feel an overwhelming crushing sadness and as my eyes started to spill onto my cheeks I tried to talk myself down…I didn’t even know who was hit, why am I so emotionally invested? Is PMS at play? Am I picking up vibes from confused spirits still lingering at the scene?
After I got into work, I hopped on the computer and started to look for any clue about what happened. A Google search yielded this article, “Memorial Day Weekend: Fatalities Up, DUIIs Down.” After reading through this depressing article, I came across this paragraph filling the gaps:
“* On Sunday, May 26, at approximately 2:19 a.m., three vehicles were involved in a serious injury crash at SE 20th Avenue and SE Madison Street in Portland. Several people were injured including a 28-year old male who reportedly died Monday night at a Portland-area hospital. A 26-year old man was subsequently arrested for several charges including DUII, hit & run, and reckless driving, with additional charges pending. Another involved driver was also cited for DUII. Portland Police Bureau is the lead investigating agency.”
Further searching found this blurb repeated by several news outlets around the state and was picked up by some national news aggregates. I also found some information on the police newsflash site which also showed a mugshot of the piece of shit that chose to drink and drive, then proceed to drive through a stop sign and kill someone. Sorry if that sounded harsh, but it’s people like this who lack self-awareness and have a disregard for personal responsibility that is behind our world going to hell in a slow-moving hand basket.
I hope the victim is resting in peace, and if not, I hope he is haunting the fuck out of the guy who killed him.