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Friday, May 26, 2017

Skylar Villareal - died on foot in Nashville, January 2017.

This blog is fully committed to pedestrian issues in Nashville.  It has a single focus and goal:  safer, better walking in Nashville.  Our current walking infrastructure, in too many areas of our city, are lacking at best.  Many areas literally have no place for a walker to be.  We have a high rate of pedestrians deaths compared to our population.  Multiple mayors and council people  have run on the idea that they were (finally) going to bring sidewalks to all of neighborhoods. 

In 2017, we continue to have many of the same issues we did during the creation of the 1st Sidewalk Plan (The Davidson County Strategic Sidewalk and Bikeway Plan, last updated in 2008).  This plan was created, in large part, from a law suit against the city by the ADA in 1999 for our lack of safe infrastructure for those on foot or wheelchair.  

Progress has been slow.  Our city is growing fast.  We still face most of the same issues and, so sadly, our citizens are still dying while walking.  

As many of you know, we created a Registry to collect the stories of those who have perished as a pedestrian in Nashville.  They are fascinating!  Through interviewing the family, you can gain a much richer picture of who these people were and what happened to them here in Nashville.   

Skylar passed away in January of 2017 after relocating for work purposes.  Her mother told me that she did not have a car and had sought out apartments that advertised "Walk to Everything'.  

She also had lived in Nashville for only 11 days when struck and killed.  Her work relocated her, moving the date from March to January, the darkest month of the year.  She was talking to her mother, on the phone, when she died.  

Read her story below:

Skylar Villareal
Tuesday, 5/9/2017
17:33 minutes

A - Andriana (Villarreal) Mroczka (Skylar is her niece, Adriana's brother is Skylar's dad, Skylar was his 1st born)
S - Stacy Dorris 

S - This is Stacy
A - Hi Stacy, this is Adriana, How are you?  I hope this is a good time.
S - No, no, this is really perfect - my kids are down with my husband and everyone seems settled
A - Ok, good - yeah, I know how that is
S - Thank you so much for being willing to talk with me about this situation and your niece and all that happened.  I'm really sorry - I imagine that was really hard and shocking.
A - Thank you, It is, that's not how it's supposed to be, she's supposed to be burying us when we are older.  Not, us morning here unfortunately
S - and, she was so young
A - She is so young, starting her life over in a new city
S - Yeah, had she just moved to Nashville?
A - She did, she moved to Nashville, 11 days prior
S - Oh my goodness
A - From Chicago 
S - Terrible
A - You're in the Nashville area?
S - Yeah, I am in Nashville,  I live right in the middle of Nashville but I'm from Chicago so I used to live there, too.
A - Oh, you are?
S - Yeah
A - How did you hear about her if you don't mind me asking
S - So, I have been really involved in walking issues here in Nashville so I moved here, of gosh, I moved her in 2003 & coming from the Chicagoland area, you know, everywhere you could walk - everyone gets out on food - it's such a fun thing and then I move here and was like, 'how do people get around this city - there are no sidewalks - this is dangerous'.
A - It's a shame
S - I started getting involved around 4 years ago - a lot of volunteer work around this and what I started realizing is that people are aware that people are dying in Nashville but they don't really know about it - such a momentary thing - pops up on the news or 10 minutes and it's gone and we never hear anything more.  As I got deeper and deeper in it - this walkability thing here in Nashville, I thought these people need their stories told, this is ridiculous - these are people's lives and we are continuously rated a very dangerous city for people on foot but we tons of walkers - people still want to walk & it's healthy and it's good - all these things, so, anyway, another professor friend of mine and I decided to do this project - to try & bring these stories to basically our leaders - our politicians and say, you know, give them more info - look, these are people - like your niece who moved here 11 days ago - nobody knows that part.  So, I heard about her because I subscribe to these kind of list-serves that talk about those who have been hit and talk about walking issues and her name came up and she was actually the 1st one I saw where  thought, 'this person is really interesting - she's young, she's beautiful - she does not look like - you know, a lot of people will say, 'oh, it was probably a homeless person or something like that', &, I'm like, 'I don't think it is'.  I think these are regular people going about their business.
A - And, Stacy, how did you find me, that's the more curious thing
S - So, you started a GoFundMe account, I think, or at least your name is hooked to it so equally through different connections I was able to find a variety of addresses for her and just decided I was going to write a letter and see what happens.  I had sent you a message through the GoFundMe but I didn't hear back so...
A - You now, I took it down - almost immediately after I put it up because her mother and her brother and, I understand this, but they said they were not ready to deal with that, so, I took it down because she said she was still grieving and it was right away and it was more for to help with the burial.  I didn't know if she was going to be cremated or what, more for that, it was never for me, it's not about me.
S - Oh, sure.
A - It's for my brother, she's my brother's first born daughter.  I was kind of miffed that they didn't want it up so, I just took it down, people had donated already and I made sure everyone got their refund and I took it down and I apologize for not...
S - Oh, no, no, no, that sounds complicated.  And, if it gives you any comfort, I do this kind of similar projects with people who pass away from food allergies, because I am an allergy doctor, and people take those accounts down all the time, too.  They have this immediate reaction when they want it up and then they take them down, they get overwhelmed or whatever.
A - I understand
S - So, she had just moved here to Nashville?  From Chicago, you said
A - Yeah, there was a company she was working for and, forgive me, I don't know the name of it, but they announced lat last year that they were moving from Illinois, like a lot of companies do because it is so expensive, so they invited all the employees to go to Nashville and look at the plant down there because that is where they were moving to and they would help with relocation cost and what not and so, all of sudden, we thought it was going to be in March but it ended up being in January that she announced she was moving.  Her mom and brother came from Colorado Springs where they lie and helped her move and, you know, my brother is here, they helped her move, helped her pack to move down to Nashville and she'd only been there 11 days when this occurred.  She was working the night shift - she had 3 years of college but she didn't finish school.  She was studying to be a marine biologist in Maine, at the University of Maine.
S - That's cool
A - Yeah, so she had 3 years of college and then went back to Colorado Springs.  She started working in a factory.  There's a lot about Skylar - she's very complex.  She's not cut and dry.  There is a lot about her past and we just recently found out - the initial toxicology report stated that there was no alcohol or drugs but recently - we found out that there was alcohol on her part.
S - Ok
A - It's really disheartening - it was actually yesterday, we found this out out yesterday and she had some demons she was dealing with and that was one of them.  And, she was trying, she was really trying.  She was trying to overcome it but apparently, I don't know if it is true or not.  That's what the toxicology report saw
S - Ok
A - She was on the phone with her mom when it happened
S - Oh, sh was?  Oh my gosh.
A - Yeah, it was shocking to me.  She was a city girl and you know, when you are a city girl, how do you not know?  I mean, yeah, it's a rural town but how do you not know how to cross the street?  These things you know because your from the city.  You're streetwise.  Your smart and so, she was on the phone with her mom and her mom, all of a sudden, the phone went dead - literally, and my sister-in-law was like, 'Skylar, Skylar', but she didn't respond.  She tried calling her back and it would go to voicemail and she figured her battery probably died, she'd speak to her the next day.  Skylar was scheduled to work that night and when she got hit, she had her IL license on her, I guess they reported it on the news the following day or maybe that night - I don't know but a co-worker saw the news report and immediately called the police and said I think I know who this woman is because she was unidentified.  They said they could not positively identify her with her Illinois state license an so he put 2 and 2 together, she didn't show up to work the night before and the woman who was hit was from Illinois and so he figured it was probably her and he called and then they called my sister-in-law to let her know.
S - Oh my gosh
A - And the rest of us found out the next day
S - That's terrible.  They didn't fine the driver, I think
A - No, they didn't fine him.  He was not at fault because she wasn't in a cross walk - that's what they said.
S - That's a very common thing here in Nashville.  They'll let the driver off.  That equally doesn't seem right to me but...
A - I mean, I honestly feel it was an accident.  I don't think the driver set out to deliberately kill someone.  He's 71 years old, I told my brother, 'pray for him' because he is on his way out of this world and he just took someone's life inadvertently but he did, he's got to live with that - that can't be easy.
S - No
A - He stayed with her.  I've read other stories about how how she was killed and, maybe, a few days before she was killed, there was another person struck by a car, on Bell Road, the driver hit them and ran
S - That's pretty common here, too
A - Yeah, left them like road kill.  This man was decent enough to say there with her.  Apparently, another sister-in-law heard he got down and covered her with his clothing or something
S - That's touching
A - It is.  I wish I could talk to him, but I have no way, I haven't researched it
S - I think I have his name and there often, in the reports, give maybe not his exact address, but his street and so, sometimes you can track it through that so I could potentially help you with that if you want
A - That would be great - that would be phenomenal
S - Ok
A - I just want to know - reports are that she died instantly and another report said she died at the hospital.  Kind of gives me comfort knowing she died instantly.  Died at the hospital, that means she suffered, she was by herself
S - Yeah, that's so true
A - I mean without family you know
S - That is a terrible story.  I am so sorry.
A - Thank you, thank you for listening
S - It's my, my, my honor
A - Your so kind - thank you
S - This is exactly the kind of story you don't ever hear on the news.  You just hear that someone was struck, it was dark, you know, they weren't in the crosswalk and that's all you hear.  You don't hear any of this background stuff and it's so important
A - Right
S - Ultimately, the goal is to get Nashville to come up...
A - Build sidewalks
S - Just be a regular city - we are almost 1 million people now and it's crowded and I don't think our politicians know about these kind of stories.  To them, it's just one person and that's that.  I don't see it that way at all and the more I collect these stories, the more I think it is such interesting information and it's so vital.  I mean, you just made her into  real person for me instead of just a pair of statistics.
A - I appreciate that - I never thought of it that way.  As something important, I sometimes wonder about who are these people - when we had the memorial service for my niece - looking through a list of people who had died at the funeral home where they were hosting her memorial service at - she was cremated in Nashville - and, I ran across people my age, 45 years old or older and then I ran across an 18 year old girl who died a week prior in January to my niece and I'm like, 'why did she get killed' so I googled her, turns out She was a Moody Bible Institute college student, 18 years old, crossing Lake Shore Drive at night on a Sunday and she got struck and killed by a car.  Her parents were missionaries and there was away so the had to get flown in, being flown in to attend to her.  Oh my gosh, I wanted to know more about her but it's all I found.  Was was she doing?  Who was she with?  The driver stayed with her, they didn't fine him.
S - Very honorable 
A - I think so too
S - I mean, because you know they're scared, too.  I'm sure that's the scariest thing that ever happened to that man.
A - Stacy, I know you have little ones but if there is anything else you'd like to know...
S - This is an excellent start to her story and equally, Adriana, if you think of extra things you want me to add something or more about her because this is really about her - about Skylar and who she was
A - This means a lot to me
S - This means a lot to me, too.  I 100% appreciate it and I think it means a lot to the people of Nashville - for them to understand her and to understand that she just moved here, was new to town - pretty alone - I'm sure she didn't have a lot of friends here
A - She had 2 cats and there were home alone for 24-48 hours until someone came.  
S - Did someone take her cats now?
A - Her mom took them back to Colorado Springs.  So,  the police actually came 24 hours later to make sure there was no kids and animal control took them but they gave them back so...
S - That's important, she was so young
A - She was really excited.  I had spoken to her 2 days before and she loved it.  Couldn't wait to discover Nashville.  Was having fun being an adult but, I said, 'I'm so happy for you but be careful, take care of yourself and be careful'.  I said it then.
S - Keep in touch and I'll try to keep in touch, too.  You have my phone number and my email.
A - Thank you - I look forward to reading your stories - actually, I don't look forward to reading them, it's unfortunate
S - I hope there are less over time, for sure
A - Good luck.

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