By Joseph Ruzich
Special to the Tribune
October 2, 2009
After a 17-year-old Lockport girl was killed in a car accident in Romeoville in May 2008, family members and friends erected a roadside memorial at the crash site.
Village officials said the memorial -- which included a white cross, stuffed animals and clothing -- was a wonderful tribute to Christina Jungkans, a student at Romeoville High School, who died at Romeo Road near Hale Avenue. But months later, wind, rain and snow started to take a toll on the memorial, prompting officials to look into other ways to remember those killed in crashes.
"We wanted to find something more sustainable," said Village Manager Steve Gulden. "The memorials people put up only usually last for about one season."
So, officials recently agreed to start a program that allows people to buy a $100 decorative pole and marker for the site where they lost loved ones in traffic crashes. It follows in the footsteps of similar efforts by Will County and the state.
Those entities allow signs to be bought only by people whose loved ones were killed by drunken drivers. There's no such restriction in Romeoville.
"This will give people an appropriate way to remember someone who died in a car accident," said Romeoville Mayor John Noak. "We recognize that (roadside) memorials are important because they provide the family and community with an opportunity to grieve."
The village will not remove makeshift memorials, Gulden said, but family members of victims will be contacted about the new program.
The village has about one fatal accident a year, Gulden said: "We are still a close-knit community. When a tragic accident happens in the village, it affects a lot of people. We still want to maintain that small-town atmosphere, where people help each other out."
Now there will be two options for memorials. Families can buy a pole and marker that will remain near the area of the accident for two years. The marker will include the message "In Memory of" plus the victim's name, followed by the date of the crash.
Or, families can put up a temporary roadside memorial marker for a maximum of 60 days if they get a permit -- which will be fee -- from the village. Officials said certain safety restrictions will be enforced to make sure that the materials used are not dangerous to motorists.
The program is similar to the state's Roadside Memorial Act, passed in January. It allows families whose loved ones were killed by drunken drivers to have erected on state roads plaques including the victim's name and date of death. Months later, Will County allowed plaques along county roads for those killed by drunken drivers.
According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, 1,043 people died in traffic crashes in the state in 2008. Cook County led all counties, with 272 fatal crashes, and Will County was second, with 44.
In 2007, there were 1,248 fatal crashes in Illinois. Will County (third behind Cook and St. Clair counties) had 43 fatal accidents and Cook County 348.
Linda Derusha, a social worker with the Romeoville Police Department, said everyone grieves differently and memorial sites help some people cope.
"People have told me that they put up memorials because that's the place the soul left the body," Derusha said. "For some people, it's comforting. They visit the place to feel close to their loved one.
"Another person might not ever want to drive down that road again. It all depends on the individual and the way they grieve."
Click to view image: '1d49bc57bc6d-roadsidememorial.jpg'
Tags: accident, roadside memorial, grief, making a buck, Chicago Tribune
Location: Romeoville, Illinois, United States (load item map)
Marked as: approved
Views: 8112 | Comments: 6 | Votes: 0 | Favorites: 0 | Shared: 0 | Updates: 0 | Times used in channels: 1
|Liveleak on Facebook|