Letter to the Editor: Why won’t the City work with us on Hawthorne memorial?

Letter to the Editor: Why won’t the City work with us on Hawthorne memorial?

Fallon Smart Memorial Ride-23.jpg

A man swerved around a stopped car and was speeding in this center turn lane on Hawthorne Boulevard prior to hitting Fallon Smart. The City of Portland plans to clear out the makeshift memorial that has prohibited people from driving in the lane for the past month.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

This post was written by Katherine White as a letter to the community in response to news that the City of Portland plans to clear out the memorial where Fallon Smart died sometime this week. White is the program coordinator at One With Heart, a martial arts studio located adjacent to the 43rd and Hawthorne intersection.

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“The memorial is making a difference. Cars are no longer racing down the street at 40 miles an hour… Isn’t it sometimes worthwhile to let go of policy and procedure, to step outside the bureaucratic road blocks and just do the right thing?”
— Katherine White

On Aug. 19th Fallon Smart lost her life in a tragic accident on SE Hawthorne and 43rd. My co-worker and I were having a quiet day at work at One with Heart when we heard the noise right outside and immediately responded.

We will never be the same and we will never forget what we experienced.

We ask ourselves if this could have been prevented if the city had responded to previous requests we have made to implement safety measures at this intersection. A number of years ago the mother of a student who trained martial arts at One with Heart was hit by a car while crossing the street at the same intersection. She survived, but was seriously injured. Our request for a crosswalk was not addressed.

When I arrived to work on Aug. 20th and found citizens had finally taken matters into their own hands and painted a crosswalk, I can’t even explain the relief I felt. I have used that crosswalk every day since and for the first time in the 25 years, I see drivers paying attention to pedestrians and cyclists on this busy section of SE Hawthorne.







Fallon Smart Memorial Ride-27.jpg

Then the flowers started arriving in the center turn lane. A dedicated group of citizens comes often to clean up and replenish the memorial. It is beautiful and lovingly cared for. For me it provides a small measure of comfort and healing. More importantly it gives some meaning to the loss by raising awareness about traffic safety.

One with Heart is a martial arts school with over 300 students, many of them young children. Most school zones have crosswalks and 20 MPH speed limit signs. Until the City of Portland is ready to invest in making this intersection safe, what is gained by dismantling the community’s efforts to do so?

The memorial is making a difference. Cars are no longer racing down the street at 40 miles an hour. They are no longer using the center lane to pass other cars, as the driver who hit Fallon Smart did. Drivers are stopping for pedestrians and maybe they are thinking twice about the cost of their impatience.

Isn’t it sometimes worthwhile to let go of policy and procedure, to step outside the bureaucratic road blocks and just do the right thing? A young, beautiful life was lost and we are doing our best to honor Fallon Smart by making a difference that can save other lives. I ask city leaders to see that, to support it, to leave the memorial in place, and to be part of the solution – now.

— Katherine White

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