Open Letter in Response to the Death of Christian Vega in a Los Angeles Crosswalk on February 27, 2019
March 23, 2019
To: Christian Vega’s Family, Friends, and Community
From: Frank Eugene Cruz, OursDid.org
When two children share a birthday, families will sometimes celebrate together.
But what are we supposed to do when our children share the opposite? When two children share a date of death? What are we supposed to say to each other when our children are killed—and make no mistake, they were killed—in exactly the same way? On exactly the same date? Separated by only ten years and a few hundred miles?
Christian Vega died on February 27, 2019 after being hit by a car in a crosswalk in Los Angeles, California. Christian was 17. And exactly ten years before Christian’s violent death in Los Angeles, another young boy, a 5-year-old child, was killed in exactly the same way: by a car, in a crosswalk, in Northern California. This second child, who died 10 years ago, was my son Zachary Cruz.
What are we supposed to say to each other when our children share the same date of death? Even the question is obscene. This is a question no parent should ever have to ask. Yet every year, those who survive the 37,000 dead are forced to ask these kinds of questions.
To the parents, family, and friends of Christian Vega, I extend my broken heart. I’m deeply sorry for what was taken from Christian and from you. I’m sorry to say that in my experience, our hearts will never fully mend from the wound we have felt since February 27th.
But with these words, I also extend my voice to Christian and the Vega family. Perhaps your tongue has fallen silent in light of your loss? Mine did too, for a time. But again, in my experience, the words eventually return. Unlike the heart, your tongue will not be broken forever. And make no mistake, the world needs to hear your words when they return. Our nation needs to hear the horrific truth that the death of our children tells: that we have created a society that values the power, speed, and convenience symbolized by the car more than it values the lives of our two beautiful boys or the 37,000 other people like them who were killed by road violence last year alone in the United States.
And with these words—of shared grief, empathy, and sorrow—I also offer to everyone reading this today my anger. The unadulterated rage of a father whose son was taken from him before his time. The righteous wrath of a man who has paid the highest price for society’s failure to value the lives of pedestrians and cyclists, of human beings, more than it values power, speed, and convenience.
I offer the memory of Christian Vega, still so fresh in our hearts and minds, my clenched and raised fist. Learning that Christian was ripped away from all of you ten years to the day after my own son was struck down in a crosswalk by another reckless driver makes me sick to my stomach. Zachary Cruz should be here with me today. Christian Vega should be here with you. And to be brutally honest, that fact that they are gone makes me mad as hell.
Some will say that today is not the time for angry words. Today is not the time to fight. But those people will most likely not be there in the long sleepless nights when parents wrestle with the ghost of their missing child. Nor will they be there when this day turns to months, then years, then decades of life without Christian. So I’ll excuse them for their ignorance. They simply don’t know what I’ve known for the last ten years and what Christian’s family now tragically understands too.
I am deeply sorry that this pain has come to those who knew and loved Christian Vega. And I hope my words do not dishonor him, or the memory of my own son Zachary. Our hearts may never fully heal from what was lost on February 27th, but your voices will. And when they do, I hope we all find the strength to raise our fist, speak out, and demand change across California, from Elysian Valley to the hills of the East Bay Area, in honor of our children, Zachary Cruz and Christian Vega. As John Steinbeck wrote, “There is a crime here that goes beyond denunciation. There is a sorrow here that weeping cannot symbolize. There is a failure here that topples all our success… In the eyes of the people there is a growing wrath.”
Please join me in a moment of silence for Christian Vega, his parents, his family, and his friends. Then please join me in the fight for #VisionZero.
Rest in peace, Zachary Cruz.
And rest in peace, Christian Vega.
Yours in the struggle,
Frank Eugene Cruz
Above: Intersection of Riverside Drive and Newell Street, Los Angeles, CA 90039, where 17-year-old Christian Vega was killed in the crosswalk on February 27, 2019.