23 May 2017

Who And What We Need

When I was writing for a newspaper, a law enforcement official told me, off-record, that there are instances in which bodies are found but investigations aren't conducted. Or, said investigations are begun but lead nowhere quickly.   Then the bodies end up in a potter's field, donated for medical research, cremated--or simply, in the words of that official, "disappeared".  

The reason, he said, is the same as what probably caused those bodies to end up where they were found:   "Nobody knows them," he explained.  "And nobody will miss them."

I am thinking about that encounter, many years past, in light of writing about Alan Snel a few days ago.  Two months ago, as he was cycling down Old Dixie Highway in Florida when a motorist drove straight into his back.  Now he is moving back to Nevada, where he had lived and worked before arriving in the Sunshine State.   In his open letter to Governor Rick Scott, he wrote, "you and the political leaders just don't care enough to do anything to keep cyclists alive in your state."  

"Care" is, I now realize, the key word.  As articulate and energetic as Alan is, and as numerous as we (cyclists) may be, there is only so much we can accomplish if we don't have other people--whether or not they are cyclists--who care.  

My experiences as a transgender woman have taught me as much.  Lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgenders and others who don't fit into traditional notions about sexual and gender identity, by ourselves, are much more vulnerable to bigotry and violence when we are seen as the exceptions and the freaks--in other words, when other people cannot, or do not, see us as one of them.  And, people start to understand that we are as worthy of the same rights as they have when we are their sisters, brothers, parents, friends and colleagues.  

The same is true of cyclists, I believe.  Too often, we are seen as renegades or as members of some "over-privileged" group.  Or, people who don't ride think our lives are less valuable because we, for whatever reasons, aren't driving instead of pedaling.  On more than one occasion, I've heard people say, in essence, that the cyclist "had it coming" to him or her when he or she was struck or run down by a car or truck.

At such moments, we--cyclists--are an abstraction or bogeymen, and the word "cyclist" becomes an epithet.  That is because we are not seen as writers, teachers, engineers, carpenters or other professionals or tradespeople--or business people--who happen to ride bikes.  And we are also not thought of as someone's sibling or mother or father.

It's a lot easier to blame a victim you don't know anything about.  But when the person who's hit or run down is a loved one, finger-pointing and excuse-making just won't do.  Instead, you want answers.

Who?  How?  Why?  Those are the questions Jessica Martinez is asking, I imagine.  Police in San Antonio, Texas found her gravely injured father, Santiago Castillo, on the side of a street on the city's East Side.  Skid marks on the scene indicate that Castillo and his bicycle were dragged as much as 50 yards and a surveillance video from a nearby home show that two vehicles, including a dark SUV, struck him.

What makes this incident particularly egregious is that, according to the neighbor, one of the drivers stopped--to remove Castillo's bicycle from his car.  "So they had enough time to get [the bicycle] out of the bumper," said Linda Garcia, another relative of Castillo.  "But they didn't have enough time to wait there with him."  He lay on the street, at the intersection of Denver and Piedmont, until police arrived and he was rushed to the hospital.

Santiago Castillo, a 61-year-old father, died half an hour later.

I don't know whether Linda Garcia or Jessica Martinez ride, or have ever ridden, bicycles.  But someone they love has been killed by a hit-and-run driver.  He was a cyclist.  And they want answers.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so very much for including this story in your blog. Santiago "Jimmy" Castillo is my niece and nephew's dad. Big Jimmy is now in Heaven with his daughter who passed away when she was 12 almost 16 years ago. Tragedy has struck this family in so many ways.

    I'm sitting with his son Jimmy reading your blog to him and sharing with him how the story of his father has such a tremendous reach. Jimmy Sr's funeral is Wednesday 10am at the Delgado Funeral home.

    We pray that whoever hit Jimmy Sr, that their hearts will be convicted to come forward. We pray that they never have to endure what our family is going through right now.

    My heart grieves for Jimmy and Jessica and the great grand son their Dad will not get to meet in this life.

    We are raising money for the headstone. Thankfully the other funeral expenses were covered by his life insurance.

    Peace be with you and God Bless.