I have been reading and watching – as all of you have – regarding the Brandon Blount memorial near Tanner Road. I have talked to many
people around the Valley, asking what they think and how a resolution can be found. What I learned is that opinions and suggested resolutions
appear to be wide and varied.
I have no idea what the parents of Brandon Blount, David Szczepanik
or Dane Rempfer have gone through or are going through on a continuing
basis. I hope I never have to go through the pain they encountered.
In the case of the Blount family, I can somewhat understand that the
memorial has come to symbolize the life of their son. It has come to symbolize
the strength of a family and the many lives that their son touched.
On the other side of the equation is the Department of Transportation,
which is responsible for the maintenance of the area in which the Blount memorial
is located. They, too, have concerns about the impacts as a distraction and
the safety of memorial goers.
We have a family and the government at odds, not an uncommon
situation in today’s society. But each of us needs to ask how we would react. Are
there more meaningful ways to celebrate Brandon’s life than a memorial at the
location where he died? Is the memorial a distraction and – in the bigger scheme
of things – does the DOT have better things to do, like fix a few potholes? Are
two years enough time to allow a roadside memorial to occur? Does a
roadside memorial really celebrate the life that was taken?
So, what options are there? First, let’s celebrate Brandon’s life by
helping people in some way. A scholarship at Mount Si would be a great place to
start. Or maybe the purchase of something the school desperately needs, with
it remaining at the school in Brandon’s name.
A road sign in memory of Brandon, at the accident site, as a reminder as
to how dangerous driving can be. All these things send a positive message
and can personally touch far more people than a roadside memorial.
As is probably evident by now, my concern is that a roadside memorial
is not the only celebration of a life. I do not believe that a roadside memorial
does justice to the accomplishments of an individual, but do believe it helps in
the grieving process. I am also concerned about the safety of people who may
stop and place flowers at Brandon’s roadside memorial. Wouldn’t it be tragic
if someone were run over after dark, as they placed a few flowers in memory
of a friend?
Nothing I say, or the county does, is going to ease the pain of
Brandon’s family. I urge the County, the Blount family and even school administrators
to work together to celebrate his life. Let his death give something more to
other youth in the Valley than just a roadside memorial.