The clip stops there, but a second one picks up where it leaves off. In it, a man’s voice can be heard repeatedly saying, “Don’t let ’em move.”
Those clips were posted on Twitter on Wednesday morning on the page for Killmoenews. The words above them read: “WHEELER ROAD SE AND MISSISSIPPI SE CHILDREN WERE HIT BY A JEEP, ON THEIR WAY TO SCHOOL.”
Immediately, people started clicking on those videos and sharing them, horrified by what had been captured. The videos not only showed a painful-to-look-at scene, but also conjured an impossible-to-ignore thought: Not again.
Those two children, ages 6 and 8, were not the first kids to be struck by a vehicle while in a crosswalk in the past month.
On Sept. 13, Allison Hart, who was 5, was killed after being hit by a van while riding her bike in a crosswalk in her Brookland neighborhood.
And on Sept. 24, Nathan Ballard-Means, 4, was hit by an SUV while he was riding his bike in a crosswalk in Dupont Circle — he, however, survived.
Think about those numbers. Four D.C. children have been hit by vehicles in less than four weeks. Four children in three different neighborhoods have been struck by vehicles that outweighed them by thousands of pounds, and the extent of their injuries came down to seconds and inches and angles.
It is an unfair math, and that has not been lost on any of the people who have been screaming and begging for the city to show that it is making road safety improvements a priority.
“Enough is enough,” wrote one person as a reply to the post with the videos. The D.C. Department of Transportation, they wrote, “is constantly failing to provide for our most vulnerable road users. When do they finally do something about dangerous drivers?”
Prita Piekara, the advisory neighborhood commissioner for the area where Allison’s death occurred, replied to the original post: “Another horrific example of our city is prioritizing 4,000 lb vehicles over the safety of our children WALKING TO SCHOOL.”
Colleen Costello, another advisory neighborhood commissioner, wrote: “I won’t share the video out of respect for the privacy of the two little girls . . . but I’m LIVID. When kids continue to be injured + killed by drivers, & leaders fail to see that as a sign they’re not doing enough to address PREVENTABLE harm, they aren’t leading & need to go.”
Piekara and Costello have called on city officials to start making the roads safer for D.C.’s youngest by installing raised crosswalks and speed tables near every school, playground, library and recreation center.
Yes, it will cost money, but it seems a logical start to showing that the city’s Vision Zero plan — which calls for eliminating traffic deaths by 2024 — does not reflect zero vision. Of course, if the city has better ideas on how to keep children in crosswalks safe, then leaders should tell the community about them and get to work. We already know what doing too little, too slowly will bring: More children getting injured or worse. This past month has shown us that.
Those two children were hit on National Walk to School Day, when students are encouraged to bike, scoot or walk to school. They, along with their father, were taken to a hospital, and one child was described as having serious injuries.
“For this incident to happen on a day where the city was trying to raise awareness on student safety should be a clarion call for us to move expeditiously around enhancing safety measures in communities,” Carlene Reid, Ward 8 member of the D.C. State Board of Education, says. “We continue to fail as a city if one more child is killed or injured while we wait for backlogged safety requests to be fulfilled.”
A day before those two children were hit, Allison Hart’s mother, Jessica Hart, tagged Mayor Muriel E. Bowser and Transportation Department officials in a string of two heartbreaking tweets.
“Hey,” she wrote, “today I commissioned an urn for my 5-yr-old killed in a crosswalk. What did YOU do today to make our streets safer for vulnerable users? How about demanding reciprocity w/MD, VA? . . . How about actually installing more stop signs, cameras, and enforcing them NOW??? Our kids can’t wait for another study, more talk. My daughter deserved safer streets and we need them TODAY.”
And less than 24 hours later, videos started being shared online of the two children hit in a crosswalk.
One of the people who saw them was John Means, the father of Nathan, the 4-year-old who was hit by an SUV and amazingly escaped with scrapes and bruises. Means described those clips as reopening wounds that “had only just begun to heal.”
“It’s a horrifying reminder that this problem is endemic in our community and requires us to make systematic changes to our streets,” he said. “Kids and pedestrians need to feel safe on streets as the first priority, not the last.”
He shared with me a photo of Nathan taken as he walked to school that morning. In it, the 4-year-old stands in front of a police car. He wears bright green rain boots and a backpack covered in butterflies. It’s a joyful scene.
Unfortunately, that’s not the image many D.C. residents will remember when they think of this year’s National Walk to School Day. They will instead see backpacks on pavement and children lying down on the street when they should have been walking safely across it.
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