In the wake of the tragic death of 16-year-old Michelle Murigi, a West Campus High School student who was struck by a car while in a crosswalk on Fruitridge Road in January 2012, area residents demanded a response from local officials. After nearly 20 months of relentless community engagement, organization, and pressure, area residents finally got the answer they were waiting for. On September 11, 2013, representatives from the city government and school district announced that they are teaming up to fully fund a traffic signal at 58th Street and Fruitridge, the Sacramento intersection which claimed the life of a young girl in the prime of her life.Michelle was bright and hardworking student who was returning from a mentoring session at a nearby elementary school when she entered the crosswalk at 58th Street on January 19, 2012. One car had already stopped for Michelle, giving her the right-of-way, when another car failed to yield, striking her. Michelle died the following day.
Her loss was immediately felt by her classmates and the surrounding community. A memorial service was held at West Campus on the day that would have been her 17th birthday. Friends released balloons into the sky to honor their lost friend. At a ceremony a short time later, Michelle’s mother was presented with a youth mentoring award which she was nominated for before the accident. In the months to follow, her companions began to canvass the neighborhood to circulate a petition which demanded that safety measures be installed on the road where their friend was taken away from them too soon.
Advocacy groups from all over Sacramento focused in on this issue to lend their expertise to this issue. WALKSacramento hosted community forums to hear from residents and gather their shared concerns. They conducted “walk audits” with volunteers to quantify the need to improve this and surrounding intersections. Other organizations, following the lead set forth by the California Endowment’s Building Healthy Communities initiative, helped residents learn organizational skills so that they could become effective advocates and hold local elected officials accountable. Their efforts did not go unnoticed, to the point where Senator Doris Matsui vowed to enact national legislation in order to make pedestrians safer in part as a response to the senseless loss of Michelle that January night.
As little as four months ago, city transportation officials were still telling residents that it could be as long as 25-years before 58th Street and Fruitridge would receive a traffic signal. Residents didn’t let that deter them, and over 1,000 added their names to a petition demanding action to prevent future accidents. In an unprecedented move, the Sacramento City Unified School District and the City of Sacramento agreed to split the $400,000 cost of installing a traffic signal, with the goal of it being erected by May 2014.
The traffic signal won’t bring Michelle back, but it does bring some solace to her mother, Mary Murgi.
“It pains me that Michelle’s life had to be taken away so that another can be saved,” Murgi told reporters at a press conference announcing the news this week.
“(But) it’s no longer about Michelle. For me, it’s about that life that is here today that will not be taken away at this intersection. That’s what matters for me now.”
READ MORE ABOUT THE ACTIONS RESIDENTS TOOK IN RESPONSE TO MICHELLE’S PASSING HERE:
SEE AN INTERVIEW OF TERRY PRESTON FROM WALKSACRAMENTO HERE: