DAN DAN’S DEATH
DanDan was 8 years old, loved video
games and bike riding. July 14, 1992 was a nice sunny day,
so DanDan and his brothers convinced Marie, their mother, to
let them play outside. At about 3 pm she called for the kids
to come inside, but they did not answer. Her oldest, Pierre,
came running inside and said, “Mom, come and help me.”
DanDan and his bike were lying in the street, hit by a car
while its driver was talking on a cell phone. He was dead.
THROUGH GRIEF TO ADVOCACY
Marie’s heart was broken. Her pain
was so bad, it felt like it was squeezing her heart out. Her
husband was strong during the funeral. He had to be, for
both of them. Four to five months after the incident, she
shared her pain with the director of the Whitney Young Child
Development Center, who said, “Let’s do something
together. Let’s do something that will help you deal with
Marie’s therapy was to do something
to prevent others from feeling this pain. She had lived in
the neighborhood for 20 years. She decided to bring people
together on the streets to tell San Francisco that it is not
okay for people to be dying on its streets. She decided to
walk from Hunters Point to downtown San Francisco. She
called her walk: Stop for Kids’ Safety. In 1992, the first
year, five people walked together. A chief of the SF Fire
Department and two police officers on bikes were with them.
The walk became an annual affair -
growing in numbers each year. In 1993, 30 people walked;
that number doubled in 1994. In 1995, the walkers included
eight supervisors and two members of the mayor’s staff. By
1997, there were 300, including Marie, who had given birth
to a new baby the day before. By 1999, 500 people walked. In
2000, they sent out 12,000 flyers; unfortunately, rain kept
the crowd to about 800.
Marie supports laws and regulations
for pedestrian safety, like traffic calming. She wanted
speed bumps to be installed on her street, but found,
unfortunately that they were no longer allowed. Cars going
too fast over speed bumps cause serious shaking which
damaged city streets and people’s houses.
She wants to slow traffic down by
increasing the number of speed limit signs posted and
enforcement of the speed limit. She works with various
groups to stop red-light running by installing
photo-enforcement cameras on dangerous intersections. She
wants more education for drivers about the risks of speed.
She wants to ban the use of cell
phones by drivers while they are driving. The man who killed
her son was talking on a cell phone. Police said it was just
an “accident”, and the man never took any responsibility
for her son’s death.
She wants a pedestrian’s “bill of
rights”. On pedestrian issues, she works with BayPeds, the
Senior Health Network, the Pedestrian Task Force, Walk SF,
Neighborhood Family Partnership, Emergency Medical Services
(EMS), various SF advocates, supervisors, a city task force,
and private citizens. Funding for her work has been
difficult. At first, Marie paid for everything herself.
After 4 years, she has received some financial help.
She also works on bicycle safety
issues, to honor her son who was biking when he was killed.
The SF Bicycle Coalition’s president comes to her walks.
In 1997, she received a Golden Wheel award from the
Coalition for her work.
She insists upon action as well. She
wanted a stop sign on her street so she contacted the new
Mayor, Willie Brown. Staff of the former administration had
promised to take care of it. She was literally on the phone
with Brown’s staff office, when she saw them putting up
the stop sign. She says to pressure officials at election
time, because that is when they are most anxious to please
Marie assumed that most people would
want to work on prevention after enduring a family tragedy.
Given how many people are hit in San Francisco, she figured
that there should be hundreds of survivor advocates. When
the news media had a story about a pedestrian dying, she
tried to contact family members. But she found that people
grieve differently. Most do not want to remember all the
pain, and find it easier to forget or push it away, rather
than to get involved.
In 1996, her 14 year old son Pierre
was hit and injured at a school crossing. Pierre has
completely recovered, but these things happen again, and
again, and again. Marie and her husband want to protect all
children, especially their own eight, four teenagers and
four “little ones”.
She wants people to see her pain, a
pain no one should have to endure. She wants others to see
thru her eyes and those of her family and her community,
that in every child’s death, hundreds of people are
affected. This is the power of her program.
Marie believes there is a God who
tests one’s faith, and that God took her son for a reason.
She works on prevention to make sure DanDan’s life meant
something. There is nothing else she can do for him, except
work hard to prevent people from being hit by cars. In
return, DanDan gives her the extra energy it takes to get up
Ways to Contact/Contribute:
Stop for Kid's Safety
2055 Falcon Drive
Fairfield, CA 94533
Website: Under construction