Change Is Hard

…but change is certain.


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Safety first

Safety is no accident!

Those of us working for truck safety appreciated all your support and kind words as we worked together to increase the safety on our roads. It’s been a tough few days for us as we gathered with determination to make a difference, many still raw from recent loss.

But it was amazing too.

I saw people with grief fresh on Saturday, sobbing through the initial telling of their stories, grow to tell those same stories calmly and firmly at the press conference on Tuesday. Friendships were forged that will last forever. People know they are not alone and progress is being made

Working the halls of Congress.

One of the most exciting things I saw during the conference was a short video clip of a side underride guard being tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In the first clip a mid-sized car was sent into the side of a semi trailer at 35 miles per hour, the standard speed the IIHS uses in test crashes. Without a side guard the car slides right under the trailer, the car’s safety features useless because the front of the vehicle doesn’t collide with anything. Air bags don’t deploy, the test dummy heads strike the side of the trailer. Death is probable.

In the second clip a side guard has been attached to a semi trailer, and the car sent speeding toward the trailer. The front of the vehicle crashes into the side guard, crumpling as it is designed to do. The passenger compartment is protected, in fact after the crash the driver door still opens and the occupants would have been minimally injured.

The passenger would survive!

Success!

Side and rear underride is a major safety issue, and one that The Truck Safety Coalition is focusing on this year. For many of our families it’s proof that finally someone is listening. So many of their loved ones died by sliding under a truck and finally we are making progress to stop that from happening in the future. The guard we saw is affordable, relatively light, and easy to install. And future iterations will be even lighter and more affordable. We believe that soon you’ll see them on the trucks driving near you on our nation’s roads.

I’m proud to be a part of this year’s Sorrow to Strength conference, proud to walk the halls of Congress, meet Members, talk to staff, support safety. Regardless of the political climate there is good work that will be done, good people to work with, good ideas that will be supported.

It wasn’t easy. My feet are tired and so is my head but my heart remains strong and my vision is clear. The roads are safer because of people like us, groups with no agenda other than safety. It takes work. But we’ll work on it forever.

Because safety is no accident.

Spreading the news.

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Storms brewing ahead


Today I took the dog for a walk at a local park. The clouds were heavy, dark, and hanging low over the fields and ponds. I felt melancholy and I wondered why.

And then I remembered.

The time is coming for me to attend another Sorrow to Strength Conference in Washington DC. The Truck Safety Coalition hosts the conference every two years; I’ve been to six of them since dad was killed by a sleepy semi driver in 2004.

The conference is a time for families to join others, all of whom have been damaged by preventable truck crashes, to share their stories, gain support, and learn about truck safety issues. Some families are struggling with permanent injuries, others are grieving the loss of loved ones. And some are trying to deal with both injury and loss.

It’s almost too much to fathom, all those people in one room.

But it’s a good thing too, because you won’t meet a better group of people to support a family in the throes of grief. These are people that know how it feels to get that call or to sit next to a hospital bed knowing that life will never be the same, but hoping for at least a semblance of normalcy sometime in the future.

It’s a difficult conference to attend, but it’s called Sorrow to Strength for a reason. We begin filled with sorrow, and leave, after several days, stronger for having been together. We’ll be talking to Congressional members, agency employees, and the media about truck safety issues. The current political environment in DC is not particularly conducive to regulation these days. But we aren’t giving up finding compromises that make our roads safer for everyone.

Everyone has trepidation as they head to DC for this conference. Attending dredges up all the old memories and emotions. Even after almost thirteen years I still get anxious thinking about the crash, anticipating the questions, planning for the meetings.

But then I think about dad. And so many others that I’ve come to know over the years. There will be new families attending this year, there always are. They are stark reminders that every year, every month, every day that goes by without solutions more people are being injured and killed. This is no time to let politics get in our way.

Wish us luck.


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WordPress Photo Challenge: Frame

Hart Senate Office Building windows  framed by an art installation in the lobby.

Hart Senate Office Building

So many ways to capture the concept of ‘frame.’ Though I planned on going out and finding something new, this photo kept hanging out on the fringes of my mind. So I let it win. It’s from a trip to Washington DC three years ago. Sitting in the lobby of the Hart Senate Building is a large metal sculpture. A hole in that sculpture framed the office windows and struck me at the time as interesting.

I like it still.

You can see other interpretations by clicking on the link above. Or you can check out a couple that I liked here and here.

And this.


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Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge: People or animals

While I was walking back from the cherry blossoms in DC last Sunday I passed this woman. Head down, carrying her shopping bags she was moving fast, not looking at anyone.

Resident among the tourists.

Resident among the tourists.

She seemed lonely and isolated even in the midst of the large and noisy tourist crowd. I wished I could talk to her, but she wasn’t sending out friendly vibes. I’m guessing she wasn’t happy with all the tourists inserting themselves into her Sunday routine.

She was an interesting person, and perfect for Cee’s challenge this week.


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Morning in DC

Sunrise on the Hill.

Sunrise on the Hill.


Part two of the cherry blossom saga. Easter weekend was my first visit to DC during cherry blossom time. Sunday I explored, along with thousands of others, the beautiful tidal basin ringed with cherry trees showing off their blossoms. Monday was spent at meetings, but Tuesday morning I had a couple of hours before my flight. So I got up before dawn and rode the metro back to the Hill.

It was an entirely different experience.

For one, the sun came up and lit the western edge of the basin with a rosy glow that complimented the pink and white cherry blossoms. And for another, there were far fewer people out there. Most of them were joggers like me, or photographers also like me, though many of them had fancy equipment. I was carrying my trusty point and shoot, the better to get runs in between stops for photos.

Jefferson glowing way over there.

Jefferson glowing way over there.

The first bit of sun tinged the top of the Jefferson Monument pink, and though it was beautiful I was still two very busy streets away. Still, I got a bit of it as I zoomed in as far as my little camera would go.

As I got closer to the tidal basin the sun was beginning to focus on the cherry trees themselves. Pretty breathtaking.

Morning light and cherry blossoms.

Morning light and cherry blossoms.

I could have spent hours just meandering beneath the beautiful trees…

The trees were art.

The trees were art.

…but I had limited time. So I headed over to the Martin Luther King monument, just around the corner. I took a few shots of him framed in cherry blossoms, but I liked this version best.

Contemplation in morning light.

Contemplation in morning light.

No blossoms, but a strong look for a strong man.

Then I checked my watch and realized I had time to visit President Lincoln if I ran. So I did. It was a great run, along the reflecting pool up to the Lincoln Monument. Could I make it up those steps at a run?

You can do it!

You can do it!

Why yes I could. And there was hardly anyone there, so I got a moment alone with the President. He was warmed by the morning sun, glad to see a new day. Me too.

Good morning Mr. President.

Good morning Mr. President.

And because I was so close, I jogged over to the Vietnam wall. There were lots of veterans there. I learned later that it was Vietnam Veterans Day, and I had just missed the ceremony.

Reflection.

Reflection.

I didn’t jog past the wall, instead taking my time to walk it, reading a few names from each panel. So many names. So many families. Heartbreaking.

But time was slipping away. So I headed back, moving more quickly, probably my longest run. And it felt uphill at that, though I don’t suppose it was.

A long way back.

A long way back.

A good place to stop and catch my breath was the WWII memorial. I walked through a part of it, paid my respects and kept going.

Peacefully empty.

Peacefully empty.

WW II, Washington Monument and Flag in morning light.

WW II, Washington Monument and Flag in morning light.

Heading back over the Washington Monument hill I saw lines of people already forming for the attraction. The sun was fully up. It was time to give the city back to the tourists and be on my way.

I didn’t want to leave.

I had experienced some pretty special moments during my early morning run. Not something I’ll be able to do again soon. Spending a couple days in the Nation’s Capitol turned out to be a gift.

With one last look over my shoulder I jogged toward the metro station and my flight home.

Until next time.

Until next time.

Bye Washington DC. I had a great time. See you soon.

I have no idea why Ronald was out so early.

I have no idea why Ronald was out so early.


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It’s cherry festival time!

Close up and personal.

Close up and personal.


No, not in Michigan, that’s still a few months away. But down in DC? Well, it’s prime cherry blossom viewing down there! And I was lucky enough to have a meeting scheduled there, so in between commitments I went up to Capitol Hill and became a tourist.

It was glorious.

I’d never been in DC during cherry blossom time, so I didn’t know what to expect. I flew in on Easter afternoon, changed into running clothes and figured I’d jog a bit on the Mall, take a few pictures of cherry blossoms, just enjoy some alone time.

Pretty in pink.

Pretty in pink.

I was so naive! When I came up out of the metro (subway) and made it over to the mall I was confronted with a few hundred gazillion tourists, all strolling along. It was like being at the start of a race, when you’re all jammed together and walking (slowly) toward the start line. Except there was never any start line…the crowd just kept meandering along.

Not going to be running here.

Not going to be running here.

So, no running on the Mall that afternoon! What was I thinking? But the cherry blossoms were stunning! The trees glowed under their own power without benefit of the sun.

Crowds enjoy the blossoms.

Crowds enjoy the blossoms.

I moved with the crowd from the Washington Monument where white cherry trees provided a heavenly canopy for people picnicking….

My favorite image from Easter afternoon.

My favorite image from Easter afternoon.

…toward the Jefferson Monument on the tidal basin, surrounded by white and pink trees.

Jefferson Monument surrounded by beauty.

Jefferson Monument surrounded by beauty.

The water was filled with people in paddle boats having fun. The shore was crowded with people taking pictures of people in paddle boats, pictures of trees, pictures of blossoms, pictures of each other, pictures of Jefferson’s monument.

There were long lines to rent the boats.

There were long lines to rent the boats.

It was so much fun, even though I was cold. I had dressed to be running and I was decidedly not running. But I didn’t care. It was so just much fun! Eventually I got all the way over to the Jefferson Monument….

Headed up the steps.

Headed up the steps.

…and noticed how pretty the Washington Monument was, across the basin, ringed with cherry trees.

Washington watches over the crowds.

Washington watches over the crowds.

The short trek between the two had taken over an hour, and it was getting dark, so I took some side streets back to the metro. I even ran a few blocks, just to say I did.

I will put together one more blog about the sights on the Mall. Tuesday, before my flight, I got up early and headed back to see the sun rising over the cherry trees. You won’t want to miss it.

I couldn’t stop grinning the whole morning.

Found a few seconds of solitude at Jefferson's.

Found a few seconds of solitude at Jefferson’s.