RICHMOND, Va. -- A new sapling in front of Boushall Middle School planted Monday honors the life of Aajah Rosemond. But it also represents the message her family hopes drivers will consider when they pass by.
Rosemond, 16, was killed last October when two vehicles collided on Jahnke Road. One vehicle spun out and struck the middle school student.
“Aajah decided to walk around the corner to the store,” her grandmother, Yesmine Bethea, said of the day of the wreck. “[Driver #1] hit driver #2 on the driver’s side, which spiraled out and hit Aajah, knocking her off the sidewalk onto the grass. The medical examiner says her neck was broken.”
Aajah’s family said they are publicly sharing their pain because often the words used to describe pedestrian fatalities tend to gloss it over. Something that Khrystal Bethea, Aajah’s mother knows acutely.
“Today is her birthday. She would have been 17,” she said to the crowd at Boushall Monday morning. “I’m more emotional about what we should have been doing today than what we’re doing right now. I miss my daughter.”
“If they see the faces of some of the lives that were lost, maybe they’ll slow down. Maybe you’ll see somebody that you know. Maybe it’ll be you or anybody the next day, so maybe that will encourage us to slow down,” Yesmine Bethea said.
The pedestrian advocacy group Bike/Walk RVA found that despite road travel decreasing significantly during the pandemic, metro-Richmond saw a record high for pedestrian fatalities.
Although the fatality rate has been trending upward for several years, their analysis said speeding drivers and an increase in the number of pedestrians contributed. You can read the study here.
Yesmine Bethea said reckless driving laws needed to be stiffened in order to deter speeding and distracted driving. Aajah’s family is also working with other families who lost a loved one to pedestrian crashes to include personal stories and photos on signage and billboards along roadways in Central Virginia.
Bethea said after what happened to her sweet granddaughter, she has changed her own driving habits.
“We need to do something different to honor Aajah and all the other lives that were lost due to motor vehicle. . . it’s not even accidents because a lot of accidents wouldn’t be accidents if did something different,” Bethea said. “Wise people learn from other people’s mistakes, so it doesn’t have to be your loved one, somebody else’s loved one. When I drive, I don’t drive just for myself. I am more mindful because I have to drive for me and everyone else, and the rush isn’t worth the risk.”
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney and other local elected officials attended Monday’s event.