HENRICO, Va. -- On the anniversary of her sudden death, Laura Pho retraced the steps that her mother took before she was hit and killed by a neighbor backing out of the driveway in their West End neighborhood.
Pho said it happened just 20 feet from her home.
"My mother was walking around 8:30 and the crash happened around 8:35," said Pho. "This hill and our house are to the right and it’s just such a beautiful view. And it gives me peace to know that that’s something that my mom saw."
A chalk tribute to her mother and other traffic fatality victims now covered the road where Pho said her mother lay that day.
"People ask me a lot how I come out here to the scene where my mom died. The heart actually represents where my mom took her last breath. And for me it’s about reclaiming this space and making it sacred in a positive way to say that Lucy was here and she’s all around us," said Pho.
Le's name sat beneath a pink heart, inscribed into the road with chalk, just above a line reading 'We miss you every day, dearly.'
"It’s a simple symbol but it’s so symbolic of who my mom is," said Pho.
Surrounding that were nine other names, representing just a handful of the traffic fatality victims in the region.
Two of them, Chaney Simpson and Wilson Jones, were killed over the weekend.
Pho said one year ago, her life changed forever and her eyes were opened to just how often pedestrian and traffic fatalities were happening. Pho said following the crash, she became involved with Bike Walk RVA, a nonprofit advocating for safer streets.
The nonprofit reports that the Richmond Metro region saw a record 32 pedestrians hit and killed by cars in 2020, a 39 percent increase from 2019, even as driving was down amid the pandemic.
"I do think people’s visceral reaction is to be angry at cyclists, angry at pedestrians," said Pho. "We all share the road. Every single one of us shares the road. We’re all pedestrians before we’re drivers."
Pho believed educating the public about driving safety as well enhanced infrastructure like crosswalks, sidewalks and bike lanes was key in preventing more deaths.
"Any action, a split-second action of yours or inattention can really cost a life," said Pho.
That's something Pho lives with every day.
"And so, I’ll come out here, and I’ll light an incense and most the times I think about Mom," said Pho as she stood before a memorial for Le outside her home. "And I just hold the incense and I let the fragrance of the incense rise up into the heavens just like a message in a bottle. And today I want to say that I have such gratitude, Mom, for the lessons you taught me about compassion and about finding peace."
Pho said her mother was a deeply spiritual, Buddhist woman.
She said she can still feel her mother's presence, and her mother had helped her to find peace and forgiveness.
Pho also said the outpouring of support and presence of her community had helped to carry her through.
"That’s humanity, that’s humanity," said Pho. "And kind of full circle, humanity needs to be remembered while we’re driving."