PHOTO STORY: Emotional Ceremony As National Work Zone Memorial Arrives in Kane
In an emotional ceremony Tuesday (June 20, 2017), co-workers, friends and family of Steve Chidester expressed the reasons it was so important to bring the traveling National Work Zone Memorial to Kane County.
Called the “National Work Zone Memorial — Respect And Remembrance: Reflections of Life on the Road,” the memorial is a traveling exhibit much like the Vietnam War Memorial, and for people who have lost loved ones to work zone accidents — roadway workers, motorists, pedestrians, law enforcement officers, firefighters, paramedics and children — its impact is no less powerful.
Chidester’s name was added to the memorial earlier this year. Family and friends have placed his photo at the base of the memorial under the second column of names.
“I think of him every day,” said Lorraine Chidester, whose husband was killed in a work zone collision on Harter Road a little more than a year ago.
Chidester’s parents and Lorraine’s sister also were in attendance for the ceremony, held at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday in the Auditorium of Building A at the Kane County Government Center, where the memorial will be on display for the public through June 23.
Speaking to the assemblage of about 70 people, Lorraine Chidester listed some common driving distractions — from smoking to fiddling with the radio to texting on cellphones — then asked people in the room to raise a hand if they had done any of those things. Everyone did — offering a simple but powerful example of the pervasiveness of the distracted driving problem and the difficulty making a work zone awareness campaign feel “real” to the average driver.
Kane County Transportation Committee Chairman Drew Frasz underlined the danger inherent in work zones.
“Traffic goes where it wants to go. It’s unrelenting, unforgiving, and in a word, ‘selfish,’ ” he said. “A construction worker can never assume their own safety or assume drivers are paying attention — especially in this world of texting and cellphones.”
As part of the grassroots effort to bring the national memorial to Kane County, friends and co-workers of Chidester started a GoFundMe page to raise the $1,600 or so needed to pay for shipment. The page raised more than $5,000 in a matter of weeks. The balance of those funds will be donated to the ATSSA Foundation and other non-profit programs that raise awareness of the need for safe driving in work zones.
And that is the reason this memorial is so important to the people present at Tuesday’s ceremony, KDOT Director Carl Schoedel said.
“Tragically, in 2016, we added the name our own co-worker to the wall,” he said. “In a word, the impact on our department has been devastating. For the men and women you see around the room here, many of them have done the same kind of work that Steve was doing when he was killed. It is sobering to think that each of these people have been at the same risk at different times during their career. For Steve’s supervisors, there is a heavy weight that comes with the knowledge that one of our own did not return from his daily assignment.”
Visit the National Work Zone Memorial
The “National Work Zone Memorial — Respect And Remembrance: Reflections of Life on the Road” is located in the Auditorium of Building A of the Kane County Government Center, 719 S. Batavia Ave., Geneva. Taking place during the popular Swedish Days in Geneva, it is available for public viewing from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily through Friday, June 23, 2017.
For more information on the memorial, visit the National Work Zone Memorial website.
Full Remarks By KDOT Director Carl Schoedel
Good Morning. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Carl Schoedel. I am the director of transportation for Kane County.
My job is to welcome everyone and to thank you for taking time to be with us this morning.
We are here today to recognize and honor the contributions of family and friends lost in work zones and bring a greater awareness to the importance of Work Zone Safety.
The wall that you see beside me is called the “National Work Zone Memorial — Respect And Remembrance: Reflections of Life on the Road.” This is a traveling memorial exhibit that was created by the American Traffic Safety Services Foundation in 2002.
The National Work Zone Memorial pays homage to individuals who have been killed in roadway work zones. A traveling tribute to these men and women — roadway workers, motorists, pedestrians, law enforcement officers, public safety officials (firefighters and paramedics) and children — the National Work Zone Memorial brings public awareness of safe driving at dozens of events across the country.
Hundreds of people lose their lives in roadway work zone accidents each year. The vast majority of those killed are motorists, but let us not forget about the highway workers and first responders whose job requires them to be within the work zone.
Tragically, in 2016, we added the name our own co-worker to the wall. Steve Chidester. We knew him as “Ched” or “Ched Head” or even “Baby Hulk” — Steve, a five-year employee of KDOT, was killed in a moving work zone on Harter Road, just over a year ago.
In a word, the impact on our department has been devastating. For the men and women you see around the room here, many of them have done the same kind of work that Steve was doing when he was killed. It is sobering to think that each of these people have been at the same risk at different times during their career. For Steve’s supervisors, there is a heavy weight that comes with the knowledge that one of our own did not return from his daily assignment.
Many of Steve’s friends, family, and co-workers approached us about doing something to remember Steve and to raise awareness about safe driving in work zones. The idea of bringing the Work Zone Memorial to Kane County began to surface. As I began to talk about this idea publicly, dozens of people stepped forward to help bring the memorial to Kane County.
This was truly a grassroots effort. To give you a feel for the level of support for this project, we started a GoFundMe page which raised $5,000 in a matter of weeks. This is more than three times the amount required to bring the memorial to Kane County and just shows the support from our extended Kane County family.
The balance of these funds will be donated to the ATSSA Foundation and other non-profit programs that raise awareness of the need for safe driving in work zones.
So thank you all for helping to make this tribute a reality.
Read the ‘Remembering Steve’ Work Zone Safety Series
- KDOT’s April 1 Road Cleanup Has Deeper Meaning
- What KDOT Is Doing to Improve Work Zone Safety
- ‘Remembering Steve’ by Wearing Orange Wednesday
- What Kane Drivers Can Do to Make Zero Fatalities a Reality
- Remembering Steve: Let’s Bring National Work Zone Memorial to Kane County