Author Topic: Another Cyclist Death in NYC  (Read 6496 times)


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Another Cyclist Death in NYC
« on: December 12, 2007, 03:38:20 PM »
One week ago today a dear, long time friend, David Smith, was riding his bike to work in a designated bike lane on 6th Avenue when a car door opened, knocked him off his bike and beneath the wheels of a truck.  His memorial service was yesterday.  To his life partner, also a very dear friend, the Rev. John  Moody, and to David's son Nala, David's sister Jacqueline and brother Stephen my deepest sympathy.  David's death has brought profound sadness for family and friends and especially for his colleagues at Town Hall where he was a recording technician.

For us here at the Grieving Center, David's death has a double poignancy.  One of our film segments on the Video Page is about Mary Beth Kelly's husband Dr. Carl Henry Nacht, a beloved physician at Roosevelt Hospital.  He was killed on his bike last summer, and as you can see, Mary Beth Kelly tells the story of her experience witnessing the tragedy and how she has chosen to  respond to the grief of his death.   

In the current calendar year there have been 23 cyclist deaths in the city. 

The deaths of David and Carl are painful reminders to me that, although hospice bereavement deals mostly with people whose loved ones have died "expected" deaths, our lives can change in a moment, with the accidental death of someone we hug and kiss in the morning and don't get to see alive again.

Perhaps you have known the pain of sudden loss.  If you are able to share your insights, there are thousands of people visiting this web site every month.  What have you been able to discern from your own experience?  It would be helpful to hear.   
« Last Edit: December 13, 2007, 07:48:41 AM by wpurdy »


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Re: Another Cyclist Death in NYC
« Reply #1 on: December 16, 2007, 10:46:24 AM »
I, too, knew David Smith and was shocked to hear of his tragic death.  As a cyclist who frequently uses 6th Avenue to head North, I was filled with anger by the unnecessary accident.  Cars, trucks and taxis routinely ignore the bold painted white lines designating the bicycle lane.  This is true of most dedicated bike lanes in Manhattan, and I really wish the police would enforce the law.  Fortunately, the city has constructed a new type of lane on 9th Avenue that blocks cars from interfering with bike riders.

I just listened to the December 15 broadcast of Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion on PBS.  The show was broadcast live, last night, from Town Hall where David worked as Sound recordist for over 30 years.  Mr. Keillor dedicated the show to David, and makes several tributes to him during its course.  A podcast of the show will be available on Monday, at


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Re: Another Cyclist Death in NYC
« Reply #2 on: June 30, 2008, 08:03:21 AM »
David was a member of my family, in that Jack Moody, his partner, is my cousin, and I really loved David a lot. In thinking through the horror and injustice of his passing, I wrote a song, and Jack asked me to consider posting the lyric on this site. So here it is. The song is unrecorded so far, but maybe one day I'll get around to it. I hope this will help other people who have lost loved ones in this way too.

White Bicycle

Left for work at 10:15
Just a day like any day
Winter is as Winter does
Devouring promises in its teethYou lover's busy back at home
He's painting maples on the pantry wall
The traffic's bad, so what is new?
The lanes are thick with scofflaws

As the city blinked you climbed
On your white bike.

Listen as the tenor trills
Listen as the cellist blows her line
Listen for the siren's wail
It bends into the caverns of the street

As the city blinked you climbed
On your white bike.

Ferry us all across the day, into the night:
A door is just an in and out
A door is just some hinges and some oil
Some people wake and don't regret
They're not the kind of people that I know

As the city blinked you climbed . . .

John Moody

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Re: Another Cyclist Death in NYC
« Reply #3 on: July 16, 2008, 07:27:16 AM »
I am David Smith's partner and since the day of his death I have been immeasurably helped by my friend, Will Purdy. His early posting on this site, Tom's heartfelt response, and now Rick's sad and hopeful and loving lyrics lead me to want to share something of what all of this means to me. David has a wonderful and loving son, Nalla, who is like a son to me. He and I were sitting numbed in the apartment having just returned from the hospital and identifying David's body when the phone rang. It was Will who had heard the news of the bicycle accident on the radio and who asked if he could drop by in ten minutes.  Will came in and held us in his arms and wept and helped us to weep.  I am a clergyman but have been retired for years and was pulling a blank on funeral directors, etc. and Will answered so many necessary questions. But it was his presence and support that carried over in those hard first days as clergy and staff and friends from Trinity Wall Street, where I served, surrounded us with comfort and leadership in arranging what was probably one of the most beautiful and meaningful memorial services in which I have ever worshipped. I hold that time in my heart and I am lifted up as David is lifted up.
But from that first day Will  has been there with calls and visits and times spent together. His willing ear and generous support have accompanied me through these months; always helpful, never demanding and, by his acceptance of where I am in this process, he encourages me to walk on the path where I find myself.  As a clergyman I thought that I knew something about grief and mourning but the loss of one's mate, suddenly, unexpectedly, is something that I wasn't prepared for. The Faith strengthens and consoles and I know in my heart that David is in a good place, but the pain of his sudden death makes the need for God's love and care so present day by day. Will and Tom have been there to share it.
That love and care is what I feel so blessed with too in the relationship I share with my cousin, Rick Moody. He and I were moved by the response of the cycling community, the placing of a Ghostbike at the site of David's accident, and the memorial rides in his name.  He told me that he was writing a song about David and then when it was finished he said that it was incredibly sad. Also, that he would sing it for me only when and if  I was ready. I said that maybe he might post it on the Grieving Center as a response to David's death and those who have written about it.  When I read it there I was moved in ways that it is hard to express. Rick is very present and his love for David and me is very palpable, touching,  in his words. Because of that caring his art was able to take me to the very place and time of David's death. I had not been able to do that in the way that Rick enabled me to be with David at the time of his leaving this life -climbing on his white bike.  As heart wrenching as this is, Rick has given me a gift beyond measure. The loved partner I said goodbye to in the morning and was never to see alive again is the one I am somehow with in his leaving and with whom I feel connected in God's love and care.
Another thing: Rick's art is finding and renewing my creative center.  I'm a painter but haven't been working at art since David's death. I haven't made the connection because I've been very busy, I say, and I have been involved in art programs and art committees but its not the same. Rick, by touching the center of my life, is enabling me to get back to the dialogue of making art where the creative juices need to flow and where life can be engaged.
Grief is such an individual journey. These are some of the experiences I have encountered and some of the blessings I have known these past months. The other day, a neighbor, an acquaintance, had just heard of David's death and I was saying that ready answers from my theological training were not readily adaptable. He said that maybe over the years I had been showing people a road map but that now I was travelling along that road. I think that is very insightful and allowing and understanding. We each travel the road as we are able and my journey is being helped by so many along the way.

John Moody