“The bright and beautiful girl of just 15 years died on August 19th while walking across Hawthorne Boulevard. The person who killed her was driving 55-60 mph — more than twice the posted speed limit — and swerved around a stopped car just before impact.”
“Fallon Smart, 15, died after being struck by [Abdulrahman] Noorah’s car on Hawthorne Boulevard on August 19.”
I found out that she had died at 11:37pm on the day it happened.
She’d been a beloved member of my choir, Bridging Voices. We were a tight-knit group of about 30 people, but she was someone I hadn’t known very well in the past season.
I’d been planning on getting to know her when the next season started.
Aug 19, 11:37pm; My phone buzzed with my friend’s reply to whatever I had sent them; I barely remember what it had been at this point, but their message remains clear in my mind:
11:37pm; “So um”
11:37pm; “One of our choir members passed away”
I felt my heart drop, almost physically. It took my friend a moment to answer my enquiry as to whom.
11:38pm; “I’m sobbing and I ???”
11:38pm; They sent me a picture of the KOIN 6 news story. I was too stunned to look it up myself.
Even now, a year later, it makes me sick to my stomach having to find news stories about the incident.
Every Sunday at 5:00pm when I don’t see her across from me, smiling from the alto section, it sends another metaphorical stone into some unknown internal organ.
Her smile would light up the whole room.
Aug 20, 3:10am; “The denial part of losing someone [is] setting in”
I didn’t read the message until the next afternoon, but I don’t think I would’ve had an incredibly engaging response if I’d read it anyway.
“Friends and strangers helped create a memorial to Fallon Smart near the site of her last moments of life at the intersection of Hawthorne Boulevard and 43rd Avenue.”
“From reports we read, Smart’s friends and classmates came to the site throughout the day to leave flowers, sing, and just hold the space.”
At first, I didn’t know whether I should go or not.
I felt it was too soon after the accident.
I ended up going, an hour later than everyone else. A few choir members were still writing chalk messages and hearts on the sidewalk, but most were simply watching the adults holding speed limit signs and trying to get drivers’ attention.
Eventually, we ended up gathering and singing a few of Fallon’s favorite songs; Seasons of Love, Rainbow Connection, Somewhere Over The Rainbow.
Somehow we ended up in a huddle, swaying and hugging and singing Will I from Rent.
Having sung the song in Denver a month or so prior, we still knew the words. However, on that same note, we’d done a mashup of the song with Shut Up and Dance, and a few people started singing that as well.
The assistant choir instructor chuckled, but his voice was strained from the lump one gets in one’s throat in situations such as these.
“I’m sure that if Fallon were here, she’d tell us to stop being all - all mopey and just to shut up and dance,” he said, sniffing. Many other attendees had been tearing up as well.
After a while of this, some Bridging Voices members, including myself, migrated to another member’s block party.
I suppose most were likely overwhelmed, and we needed a way to grieve together without the additional anguish of seeing where it happened.
Eating green Otter Pops and trying to avoid being a casualty of my friend’s little brothers’ water gun fight would’ve probably been an ideal end to summer had it not been plagued by the feeling that someone was missing, and would never reappear.
That friend told me he blames himself for not knowing what was happening a few blocks down.
No one else blames him; we all blame ourselves for this in some way or another.
The memorial services were held on September 2; the first a private one, the second public.
The private event began shortly after school ended. I had to wear blue for spirit day at my school, however, so I wore my black dress shirt under a large blue Grant hoodie.
2:45pm; I watched the clock intently, a sinking feeling growing in my gut as the seconds ticked by.
I’d completely abandoned the geometry work; it was simple, merely a review to gauge the class’s knowledge prior to entering the class.
3:00pm; My fingers were running compulsively through my curled hair. I was simultaneously eager for the bell to ring and dreading what would come after it. An intense storm started, and the general consensus of the class was that it was finally acting like Portland again.
3:15pm; The clanging signifying the end of the school day echoed in my ears as I packed my things and hoisted the bag upon my back.
3:19pm; I slumped into the back seat of my mom’s car, along with my best friend. It had just stopped raining before we left the building.
Traffic moved like molasses, sticky and dark and barely traveling in any given duration of time,
Or perhaps I’m simply projecting.
4:00pm; After leaving our backpacks in the vehicle we made our way to the basement of Waverly Heights UCC.
We were then told that Bridging Voices was in the back room, so we assured the woman directing us to our choir that we did indeed know how to get there from our current position and we headed up the narrow staircase.
They greeted us demurely. I had never seen this group so quiet in my life.
My friend had already started crying, and a few of us moved in to comfort him. This caused some to wipe away tears from their own faces as well.
I decided to button the collar of my dress shirt; I felt it looked too sloppy for the occasion otherwise.
Previous to this service, I’d been in relatively deep denial that anything particularly devastating had truly happened. I had acknowledged it, certainly, but it hadn’t sunk in until the first person began speaking.
It was a mere introductory sentence, but I suddenly realized that the girl whose smile was a near constant in rehearsals and concerts was gone.
The friend who’d hosted the block party was comforting my crying friend from the row in front of us, and he attempted to comfort me as well. At one point, I’d actually been wearing eyeliner.
I was no longer wearing eyeliner.
After a while of us sobbing, he moved to sit between us, bringing a box of tissues and just letting us cry on him until it was time for the choir to sing.
The songwriter accompanied us on guitar, but he didn’t want to detract from our collective grief so he allowed us to perform the verses of his song.
I was barely able to sing the words, my lip trembling.
After we’d gotten through the song, we went back to our seats in the church pews.
When we had sat down, people started sharing stories of their fondest memories of her.
One choir member reminisced about sharing a hotel room with her in Denver and how she was willing to watch Shrek The Third with her.
The one sitting between us talked about how the last thing he said to her was, “See you at school.”
By the time we got up to sing the closing song, Closer, my black jeans were covered in bits of Kleenex to the point where it looked like someone had been doing drugs off of my lap.
I was silently weeping through the song. The most vivid memory I had of Fallon was singing this song with her and two other members.
When the last person had finished speaking, we all went downstairs to eat from a large buffet of food.
I was around comfort food and comfort people; I had hit the barrier of crying for the next 45 minutes or so.
Fri, Sep 2, 5:39pm; “Hey dad it’s [name omitted] I was wondering if I could go to revolution hall”
The public service was being held at 7:00pm, so my dad took a few of us and drove us to the auditorium where we would proceed to collect wristbands in every color of the rainbow, sing, cry a lot, and make plans for an hour or so to hang out for 30 minutes and clear our heads.
After our group shrunk from seven people to three, we ended up going to sit on an elementary school play structure and talk about nothing in particular.
It was actually quite relaxing, considering what the past few weeks had held.
If this story ever gets told to people outside my immediate range, I hope it will be in a world where people drive safely.
I hope it will be more condensed, with more purpose and fewer tangents.
And I hope it will be in a better time, when teenagers’ lives aren’t cut short by reckless drivers.