Each year at this time my family attends a memorial service at the California State Capitol for Caltrans Workers who have died in the line of duty. It is a difficult day, as my stepson, Matthew White, was killed on December 14, 2007, while filling a pothole at the Elk Grove Boulevard exit on Interstate 5 in the Sacramento area.
A week or so ago as I was preparing my mind for the event, I realized that I had not heard of any Caltrans deaths this year. Just a couple of days later, Shawn Baker and Joseph “Robert” Jones were killed in a rock slide. My heart skipped a beat, and I prepared myself to watch the honor guard place two more orange cones bearing their names placed in the diamond of orange cones representing fallen workers. This morning, a Caltrans worker was killed in an accident on his way to the memorial ceremony. I don’t yet know his name. UPDATE: His name is Dean Patton. He leaves behind a wife, three children, and three grandchildren. He was 51 years old. Our hearts go out to the families of these three people. Ironically, one of the funerals is today, and another tomorrow, so the Baker and Jones families won’t join us at the memorial until next year.
Families are changed forever when someone doesn’t come home. 20,000 highway workers are injured nationwide each year. We heard today from two men who were hit a couple of years ago. One of the men says he owes his life to the other.
Part of my family were able to attend the memorial today, and I looked around and realized how many “little” members of my family never knew Matt. My second daughter’s husband never met Matt. My youngest daughter’s future family will never meet Matt.
Highway workers, private construction workers, highway patrol officers, emergency vehicle technicians, and tow truck drivers put themselves in the line of fire of speeding vehicles everyday. They all have families who love them and want them to come home at the end of the day.
PLEASE SLOW FOR THE CONE ZONE. It is the law in California and many other states to MOVE OVER for flashing lights if safe to do so, and if not, to SLOW DOWN SIGNIFICANTLY. It’s the law. More importantly, IT’S THE RIGHT THING TO DO.