Remembering Michelle (1977-2001) by June O'Connor

On the morning of April 27, 2001, my 24-year-old daughter, Michelle O'Connor, was on her way to work. She was riding her bicycle down Oak Street. As she passed number 179 Oak, she collided with another vehicle and was thrown under the wheels of a large truck. She was killed instantly.

Before that day, she had been making plans to attend graduate school and get her Masters of Fine Arts degree. She was an artist, a painter who worked in oils on large canvases. She had recently sold several paintings at prices that validated the talent she had in her chosen field.

She was also a poet and had recently joined a poetry group, where, as the youngest member, she actively sought critical input to help her improve this side of her artistic ability. In a poem she wrote to the family as a Christmas present in 1999, she said "I'm making my way in a world you can't protect me from." She meant a world where she would make her own mistakes and enjoy her own triumphs, not a world that included instantaneous death.

As her mother I now live with "what if" and "if only." For instance, if only there had been a bike lane on Oak Street. What if the traffic lanes were tightened and the space left over used to expand the shoulder and make more room for bicycles. I don't know that actions like those would have saved her life. I do know that these do not exist today. I know that my daughter's potential will never be realized. I know that my agony is forever.