This evening I had an unexpected and special experience that I would like to share with you.
Standing on the state house steps at 5:15 in a light drizzle, I waited to see if anyone would show up to participate in this year's Ride of Silence.
I was cold and beginning to wonder if organizing the Ride of Silence each year made sense. The weather rarely cooperates. By 5:45, a handful of bicyclists had appeared and all indicated a strong desire to do the ride, despite the threatening skies.
We helped each other tie on our black and red armbands and then we rode six miles at a respectful pace. Once at the halfway point, we stood in a tight circle and took turns reading aloud the names of 36 bicyclists who had been killed or injured in crashes with motor vehicles. We shared things we knew about some of those on the list. One of those who spoke was Tom Hunt who drove all the way from Massachusetts to join the Ride of Silence in Montpelier to honor his son, Eric. Eric was killed in 2010 by a metro transit bus in Boston one month before his 23rd birthday. Tom told us a little bit about Eric and gave us small laminated cards with Eric's photo.
Eric was a caring young man, an organ donor. So far, tissue from Eric's body has been used over 100 times, often to give beautiful smiles to those born with cleft palates. As we listened to Tom tell us about the loss of his beloved son, our six hearts became one.
Tonight was special because it was a powerful reminder that, despite all the setbacks and disappointments, this educational and advocacy work does matter. Our roads need to be safer so we won't continue to lose those we love. We concluded our circle time by reading aloud the poem on the back of Eric's prayer card:
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow; I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain; I am the gentle autumn's rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush, I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft star that shines at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there; I did not die.
- Mary Elizabeth Frye
The Ride of Silence will happen next year on the third Wednesday evening in May, in Montpelier, around Vermont, around the country, and around the world. Please be a part of it and please contact me if you can volunteer to lead the ride in your community. Thank you.
VT Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition