We have too much experience with senseless loss in Mount Vernon, too many personal stories of lives delayed, ruined, or lost. Our hearts are too heavy, too often in the wake of too much tragedy, especially when that tragedy visits our children. Unfortunately, we find ourselves here again, mourning the loss of another child too soon.
Drew Faustin, a fourth-grader at Graham Elementary School, was struck and killed by a car last week on Columbus Avenue. Just days before Mother’s Day and a week before his 10th birthday, Drew’s family must now try to make some sense of their loss. And, as a community, so do we. How do we find sense in this senselessness? How do we honor Drew’s memory in a way that helps us bring order to the chaos? How do move forward at all?
Some of us will turn to God and to prayer. Some to our families, neighbors, and friends. Some will curse; some will weep. All of us will feel deeply for Drew’s family as they navigate this tragedy as best they can. All of us will hold our children a little tighter and be quietly thankful. We will pull together as a community and process the implications of another interrupted young life. Hopefully, we will also make a commitment to Drew and his family to ensure his life, while too short, was nevertheless meaningful and profound.
To do that, we must first start by examining own lives and behavior. It’s too easy to get caught up in our own sense of self-importance and priority. We forget we live in a community and that we have a vital and important obligation to each other. You may think whatever it is you have to do is the most important thing in the world right then. You’re wrong. Whatever it is, literally, is not worth the value of the pain you can cause or the life you can erase in the process. Slow down, leave earlier, pay attention when you’re on the road, and focus on what’s around you. That’s what you can do every time you get in a vehicle. If we all did that, we wouldn’t need to be having this discussion nearly as much as we do.
Unfortunately, that’s not enough. As a community, we need to make sure it happens. Traffic is snarled by bridge closures, certain streets are littered with potholes, and it seems like you’re always going to be late. So, you go a little faster when you get the chance. I get it. I just won’t put up with it anymore. None of us should.
I will be introducing legislation to reduce the speed limit in Mount Vernon, city-wide, to 25 MPH. Every street, every day. I will look to increase penalties for violations, and I will be asking the Mayor to step up enforcement of these safety initiatives. It’s non-negotiable. Our children’s lives are too valuable to consider any other alternative. We will promote a culture of safe driving, and we will strenuously enforce against those who are unwilling to comply.
Even just a 5 MPH reduction in speed has an enormous impact on the survivability of an accident. Pedestrians struck at 25 MPH are half as likely to be killed as they are at 30 MPH and, if they are hit, the severity of the injuries is significantly less life-threatening at lower speeds. Lower speeds give drivers and pedestrians more time to avoid accidents altogether. Since the 25 MPH speed limit was instituted in New York City in 2014, pedestrian fatalities have almost been cut in half.
Almost a year ago, I began writing this column because I saw a little boy get injured when his bike hit a pothole on one of our streets. We’ve covered a lot of different ground and a lot of different topics since then. This is what I wrote at the time: “You can learn a lot about a place by looking at its roads. Where it’s going. Where it’s been. What are its priorities. What it’s willing to tolerate and, worse, what it’s willing to accept. What do our roads say about us? A lot I’m afraid, and what they are saying is not good.”
Well, in Drew’s memory, it’s time for us to start making a statement about what are our priorities, where we are going, and what we are willing to accept in Mount Vernon. And, we’re going to start making that statement immediately.
I know it means nothing now, but to Drew’s family I can only say that your loss is felt by this whole community, and we offer our most sincere condolences. As a father, my heart breaks for you. If there’s anything I can do for your family, just ask. We will remember Drew’s infectious laugh, and we will honor him in our prayers. Then, we will make sure that as a Mount Vernon community – as a family – we do what is necessary to protect the lives of all of our children.
We’ll get back to other topics next week. Right now, it’s more important to grab your kids and hold them tight, know where they are at all times, pay attention on the road, and, most importantly, keep Drew’s family in your prayers and thoughts.
If you have thoughts or comments about this issue or any other, reach out to me at ADWCMV@gmail.com.