Hey! Stop for People in the Crosswalk!

What the hell does it take to get drivers to stop for people in the crosswalk? Less than thirty seconds after crossing the street where little Maya Hirsch had been struck and killed in a crosswalk, a driver plowed over the crosswalk where Charlie and I and two other pedestrians stood. “Geez,” said the stranger who was crossing with her ten-year-old son just to our right, “Babies don’t even get a break.” She was referring to Charlie, who, though no longer a baby (he’s three) appeared to be one at that particular moment. Even though we were on our way to an exciting afternoon at the Lincoln Park Zoo, Charlie decided he was tired and wanted to lie down in the stroller. It was super windy, so I had placed a blanket on top of him. With only his feet visible, he did, indeed, look like a baby. As we crossed the street and arrived at the zoo, I told this stranger that we were just a few feet from where little Maya was struck and killed a couple of years ago. I call her “little” Maya, because she was only four and she will never have a chance to grow up. I informed this stranger with her son that, in broad daylight, little Maya’s mother was crossing with her children at the crosswalk on Belden and Lincoln Park West when a driver who, not only failed to stop at a stop sign, but completely ignored and plowed over them, dragging little Maya down the street where she subsequently died in the hospital from her injuries. “How soon they forget,” I complained.

Drivers must stop for all human beings (not just babies in strollers) who have entered the crosswalk. This is the law in Illinois. As someone who likes to walk, I have noticed that this law is either not known or ignored all too often. There was one brief “honeymoon” period, after little Maya’s death, where drivers seemed more than happy to stop for those of us in a crosswalk. Although little Maya lived in the city, she had significant family ties to Evanston and that community mourned her as well. One day, Eva, Charlie and I were crossing at the crosswalk on busy Central Street by Independence Park. To my left, a driver stopped to let us continue. The traffic on the other side of the street did not. “Hey!” Yelled the driver to my left to the scofflaw on my right, “Stop for these kids already!” Like this well-meaning gentleman, many members of the community were understandably angry at the injustice of Maya’s death.

On our way back to the car after our time at the zoo, Charlie and I stopped by the William Shakespeare statue where “Maya’s Garden” stands in honor of little Maya’s memory. Even though I didn’t know her, I think of her everytime I stand on a crosswalk, and everytime I stop my car for others crossing at one. I tried to imagine what it would be like to have to live without Eva or Charlie.  Just the idea is unbearable. In the Jewish tradition of placing stones on graves, I placed a stone in Maya’s Garden. Dear Little Maya, you are remembered and you and your family are in my prayers.

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