Yesterday, I read the paper when I first woke up. Whenever it's a deadline day for my column, I start my day with a survey of local, regional, national and international news. I look for stories that jump out at me, whose topical nature might make a strong column.
I came across the sad story of a 27-year-old woman who had been hit and killed by a car on a road I ride every morning and evening on my commute. In fact, I had been right there earlier in the day. Scary stuff...it can happen to anyone.
The story said the police were looking for a small purple vehicle. Uh oh, I thought: a hit-and-run. I crafted a piece about hit-and-run drivers. I mixed in equal parts anger and fear. I think it was good writing.
I submitted the piece on my lunch break, then went back to my all-day meeting. I got home after 7 p.m. and logged on to the PC. To my horror, I saw an updated, web-posted article that said the original story was wrong. The driver had not fled. My column was now instantly obsolete and outright inaccurate...based on errant reporting.
I called every number I could remember, but couldn't reach anyone (it was nighttime.) I (wrongly) assumed that someone would catch it and call me, and the fact that the phone hadn't rung and my inbox had no message meant that someone was on top of it.
In the overall scheme of things, this isn't a major issue. It happens. And when it does, my skin gets a little thicker and I learn still more lessons about how far I can and cannot go when I submit pieces for publication. Next time, I won't be afraid to call folks at home.
In the interim, wrong reporting or not, and my journalistic whining notwithstanding, someone died because a motorist took a curve way too fast, jumped the curb and ran her down as she rode on a bike path. Even if the circumstances were initially not clear, the end result was just as tragic. And although my initial cut at an Ink Blog entry didn't make the papers, I've included it here anyway, because writing is writing, and I never want any of my words to go to waste. There's a lesson in here regardless.
Here's my unpublished piece:
Yesterday, I rode my bicycle to work scared. As I passed the spot on Richmond Street where a 27-year-old woman was struck and killed by a motorist on Wednesday evening, I shuddered to think it could have been me.Your turn: What's an appropriate punishment for someone who kills someone by clearly misreading the weather, the road, and the capabilities of his/her car and his/her driving abilities?
I cycle that road daily, sharing a sliver of asphalt with often-impatient drivers. I’ve been cut off, brushed back, and yelled at by drivers who refuse to acknowledge that cyclists have every right to ride in peace.
Today, the victim’s family mourns an incomprehensible loss while the driver of the small purple vehicle allegedly involved in the accident roams free. Like all hit-and-run drivers, this coward didn’t have the courage to stay at the scene to help the victim or speak with police. The driver just left her there.
Whoever you are, I hope the guilt weighs on you so heavily that you feel compelled to turn yourself in. And if the police find you first, I pray they throw the book at you so folks like me can ride without fear.