Guest commentary: Speed kills and the culprit walks
As an Aspen resident, I love being able to walk or ride my bike — whenever possible — to work, run errands, exercise or just spend quality family time. The city has spent so much money on bike paths and painting crosswalks to avoid any question of where to walk or ride with some level of safety. It’s reassuring that, with a 25-mph speed limit (20 when not posted), there’s not a lot of potential danger — as long as drivers are paying attention.
I am a father of one little girl, Cali, age 3, and two fantastic Labrador retrievers, Daisy, 3, and Jessie, 13. I moved here when Jessie was 7, and we’ve had countless fun days and adventures together. When a girl like Jessie comes into your life, it changes you. You are a better human being. You are happier and friendlier, and you seem to smile more. This girl has been through so much in her almost 14 years. Countless road trips and adventures, from being swept down a raging river to partial paralysis due to an inter-vertebral disc disease to a full recovery — that was four years ago. After that, every day was a bonus. She could have lived another day or five more years, and I would have been satisfied knowing she lived a full and wonderful life.
On Sunday, I lost my special girl — not from old age, not from cancer or some other disease, but when an impatient woman in a blue Porsche Cayenne ran over her — in a crosswalk, 100 yards from my home, with my wife, daughter and other Lab, Daisy, looking on, on their way to the park. She sped up Gibson so fast that my wife purposely waited to cross until she came to a full stop and made eye contact before they proceeded to cross the street. She apparently didn’t wait to make sure all had crossed or until she could see that she was clear to continue on her way.
In fact, my wife hadn’t even reached the other side of the sidewalk when she hit her accelerator, clipping Jessie enough to knock her off balance, causing her to fall backward and under the rear tire as it rolled over her. My wife called me in a panic and hysterical and urged me to come home as soon as I could. I was on a bike ride in Snowmass and couldn’t be there quickly enough to even say goodbye to my best friend!
I am haunted by how she might have felt, looking for her daddy — the one who makes everything all right, perhaps realizing she was dying, wanting me to be there to tell her goodbye and that it was all going to be OK. She was still breathing when my wife and some neighbors loaded her into her car but was gone by the time they reached the emergency vet in Basalt.
In a perfect world, we would have loved for her to go in her sleep when it was time. After all, if any dog deserved it, she did. But it’s not a perfect world. No, not even in Aspen. There’s always someone in too much of a hurry and can’t be bothered with checking to make sure all — adults, children and pets — have made it safely across the street before they proceed. Talking on their cellphones or texting.
She was my love who saw me through some of the darkest days of my life and celebrated with me at my highest points. She was there for all of it. She did not deserve this. I believe everything happens for a reason, although I can’t imagine what the reason could be. I do know the reason for me not being there when it happened: to keep me out of jail. I hope this woman someday understands what she has taken from me, Alie, Cali and her little sister Daisy.
My other big question is: What if it had been my daughter? There is no legal recourse, even though Jessie was clearly in the crosswalk. Not even a fine or a ticket. Therefore, what is the penalty for careless driving and taking the life of a family member? Apparently only a mental one — if you have a conscience.
Please. Slow. Down.
Michael David Cook lives in Aspen.
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