Safety Between Point A and Point B
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Wayne Elam

Wayne Elam's story

 

DOD: March 28, 2015

 

The pedestrian struck by an SUV and killed at the intersection of Garfield Street and Delta Avenue was identified as Wayne Elam, 64. Elam was walking on Garfield Street in a crosswalk near his residence at 8 p.m. when he was struck by a 2006 Ford Escape driven by Ann Allen, 62, of Owen Street. Allen said she didn’t see Elam. The preliminary investigation indicates that failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk is the primary contributing factor to the collision. No charges were placed against Allen at the time of the event. The investigative file, once completed, was forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office for review. There was no evidence of alcohol or drug involvement at the scene on the part of the driver or the pedestrian.

 

 

image gallery

The following images have been generously provided by the family of Wayne Elam. 


How he Was Lost

Wayne Elam was killed on Saturday, March 28, 2015 as he attempted to cross intersection of Garfield Street and Delta Avenue (pictured below). Wayne, 64, was struck at 8 p.m. by a 2006 Ford Escape driven by Ann Allen, 62, of Nashville.


from the family & friends

The following interview transcript was generated during an interview between Anthony Campbell and Shemeka Turner (Wayne's Daughter) on Friday, July 21, 2017. The interview took place in-person for approximately 53 minutes.

Anthony

  • Thank you so much for agreeing to meet with me, and to provide your father’s story to our website. We can really begin wherever you want…I have a few specific questions, but we’ll just see where our conversation takes us.

Shemeka

  • Where my daddy was hit and killed, the city had 9 years of study that says what needed to happen at that exact intersection…and they were only doing rudimentary things – they never did the key and necessary things to improve safety. There have been numerous accidents and injuries at that intersection, my Daddy just happened to be the one body that left the earth as a result of the lack of safety at that intersection.

Shemeka

  • My Daddy was a military veteran…he literally spent time making sure that we were safer as a country. So for my Daddy to leave the earth under these circumstances – an unsafe intersection in the heart of Nashville – it’s just too much. Let me tell you, my greatest thought is that the street where my Daddy got killed, should not be named Garfield Street, but Wayne Elam Boulevard.

Shemeka

  • Me and my family reached out to Channel 17, and they did 4 stories about my Dad (Story #1, Story #2, and Story #3). So it’s not just me and my family saying that the intersection is dangerous, it’s apparent to the media and pretty much anyone who even looks at the intersection. Channel 4 also did a serious study on that intersection. There are pictures and videos of his shoes in the crosswalk where he was literally knocked out of his shoes – in the crosswalk – and immediately killed.

Shemeka

  • What amazes me, is that you’re here from a group that actually cares about the chaos, struggle, and turmoil that my family has been enduring. We didn’t know anyone else really cared, let alone that there was any other kind of group or organization that was researching these kinds of things. Are you kidding me?! I need to know more…what exactly is your organization and are there other organizations like yours?

Anthony

  • Well, I’m working with Dr. Stacy Dorris on the Nashville Pedestrian Death Registry. However, there are numerous other groups concerned with these very issues, perhaps most notably Walk Bike Nashville.

Shemeka

  • I’m trying not to cry…You and Stacy weren’t touched with my family’s tragedy…or other people’s tragedies specifically, but you just care about it? Help me understand. This is almost too much. You two just have a heart for this issue?

Anthony

  • Well, it’s just the fact that we know there’s a story behind each of these deaths. For every single individual who chooses to travel on foot and then has their life taken away, there is a much more complex story than what is often provided in a police report and in a news story.

Shemeka

  • Do you research how this disproportionately impacts minorities? Do you research how they put in all of these beautiful crosswalks and lights near the football stadium, which is used a few times a week…at best, but then in our neighborhoods they have these worn-down crosswalks with faded paint, no lights, and just nothing essential for walking. Are you looking at that? Do people know that?

Anthony

  • We are learning more and more about the statistics associated with pedestrian deaths, especially in the Nashville metro. You are indeed correct, it disproportionately impacts minorities, the poor, and anyone who, by choice or not, is spending a considerable amount of time traveling near one of Nashville’s major roads. There are some organizations who are doing especially important work about the design and nature of crosswalks, such as Walk Bike Nashville that I mentioned earlier, as well as Stacy’s other project – the Sidewalk Foundation – as well as a really interesting organization called Turbo Nashville. For whatever it’s worth, these are issues that have captured the attention of many individuals throughout Nashville. However, that surely offers little solace when you’re enduring the tragedy of having lost your father…a man who was simply trying to walk from point a to point b, and then was tragically robbed of his life.

Shemeka

  • …and robbed from his family.

Shemeka

  • Let me tell you something…to have someone approach me directly, to want to get my Daddy’s story out there in the world. Not just that he was killed at an intersection, but his entire story. That means so much. I don’t want to feel like a victim, and I don’t know if my Daddy would want people to see him as a victim, but there have been times where I feel like my Daddy has been made out to be the bad guy…like he did something wrong. He was in the crosswalk. He was doing what the law says we’re supposed to do when we walk in the road. He gets killed, and it’s his fault?!

Anthony

  • That’s most often referred to as “victim shaming.” It’s not that different from how rape victims were automatically presumed guilty of doing something wrong for decades. We’re working to change that when it comes to pedestrian deaths…make it so blame doesn’t automatically fall upon the individual who has left their life while simply trying to walk. We just a more balanced and fair…and truthful depiction of how these people die while being a pedestrian.

Shemeka

  • I’m so confused by how there’s not more being done to make this a safe city for walking. I mean, we just have so many people coming to Nashville. More people, more cars…we’re just going to see more and more people getting hit in the road. More cars to hit more people.

Shemeka

  • You know…they tried that victim shaming thing with my Daddy. They tried to characterize him as a drinker. The cops were interviewing us and not even asking if he was drinking. Instead, they were talking to us as though it was automatic he had been drinking. Not even a doubt he’d been drinking in their minds…and that was based on nothing. My Daddy didn’t smoke, he didn’t drink…he didn’t do any of that.

Anthony

  • Well that’s what we want to learn more about, and that’s what we want to showcase on the NPDR website. Who was your Daddy? What do you know about how he behaved as a pedestrian? Just whatever you want to share with us.

Shemeka

  • My Daddy is from Nashville. He grew up off of Lafayette in South Nashville. He was in the military when I was young. He left college to join the military so he could take care of his family – me and my sister. My Daddy did an awesome thing with that…as a member of the military, he was able to show us the rest of the world. We lived in Germany, Arkansas, and Oklahoma…all kinds of different places with my Daddy. As you’ve probably heard about people in the military, he was very rigid. He acquired that from the military, and he transferred that over into his family life. So in terms of rule…even down to how your bed is made…things have to be done in order and done the right way. For us to see that video of our Daddy…well, you know where he was hit was in the “projects” – right?

Anthony

  • Yes

Shemeka

  • So…my Daddy didn’t have his own place. After all that time he spent in the military, the time that he spent in school. He didn’t have his own place. You know, he insisted and supported my sister and I when it came to school. Me and my sister both have a master’s degree, and it was from his insistence that we didn’t take school for granted, and didn’t waste our time or energy when it came to getting college degrees. I said all of that to say…my Daddy had a plan for what he was going to do with his life, and he had a plan for what he wanted his daughters to do with their lives, but…just like a lot of men when they come back from military service…they got the greatness from the service, but also some of the residual not-so-great. So I still don’t understand how my Daddy, at the point of his death, not own anything…he was living with this woman in the projects. It doesn’t take away from any of the awesome that he was…it kind of adds to the well-roundedness of his story. You know…there was nothing major that happened to him…there was just something that was…off. When it came to me and my Sister, he was just always pushing us…strive, develop, do great things…however, the drive for him was gone.

Anthony

  • Sounds like he had a profound impact on your life and your sister’s life.

Shemeka

  • Yes! Let me toot my Daddy’s horn for a minute…when my Daddy died, he would help take care of my children, he had great-grandchildren he’d help take care of…how many men can take the honor of being their great-grandchildren’s babysitter? He worked so hard to make sure that his grandchildren and great-grandchildren were infused with the high-quality characteristics that he’d worked so hard to make sure my Sister and I acquired. This old many babysat little babies…he changed diapers…he made certain that all the kids were getting the life knowledge that they needed, and that they got it early. At the same time, he was living in the projects with nothing. So, what does that tell you? It tells you that everybody has value, everybody has something that they’re giving to the world…to the universe.

Anthony

  • Seems he was a man really driven by a desire to improve the world, at all levels.

Shemeka

  • Yes sir! So for him to go the way that he did…it’s just not right.

Anthony

  • So can you tell me about the area where he was struck?

Shemeka

  • Well…if you go there now, the city has done a few things…they’ve cut back some trees, they put up signs that they knew, before my Daddy’s death by their records, should be up in that area…they changed the speed limit in that area. Some rudimentary things that they knew needed to happen. In my opinion, the less costly things they could do…after a man had died. They brightened the six crosswalk strips…they actually had to move them. They had records that said some of the strips were not where they were supposed to be, it was poorly lit in the past. They still haven’t done anything like put streetlights out there, or pedestrian crossing lights that flash.
     
  • You know, the easiest and fastest way to get to the little store was to just cross outside of the crosswalks, and people do that all the time. But not my Daddy. My Daddy always used the crosswalks. They interviewed a lot of people after he died, and as I shared, we have four news stories that were done about my Daddy…anyway, they did interviews with other people that live in that area and vicinity, and those people repeatedly said that my Daddy was always a person who used the crosswalks, and that people were always going too fast in that area and not following the traffic laws.
     
  • Let me describe that area in a little more detail…you come down a hill off of Rosa Parks, and the speed limit is 40 up there, you come down a hill off of Buchanan, and as you cross over the bridge you enter the area where my Daddy was hit and killed. Everything converges into a valley. There is not a traffic light…there’s just really nothing to make people stop or slow down as they enter this area. So imagine you’re coming down a hill…coming from an area where you’re already allowed to go too fast for an area where people are walking – 40 miles per hour – there’s just no way that’s going to be safe for an area where there are so many people walking around. It was bound to happen…I’m surprised it hasn’t happened more in that area. Let me add in one other aspect of this area, in this valley, where drivers were already going up to 40, where they are coming down a hill…they lanes converge and switch from four to three…just another layer of confusion, not to mention so many people are looking down at their phones. So that’s the area that people have to navigate…that my Daddy had to navigate…that children are trying to navigate.
     
  • You know, there’s a crosswalk guard during the day for school kids…well if you know that’s a big enough issue to do during school hours, what about all of the other hours of the day? Those same kids are trying to navigate it when school is not in session. The kids’ parents are trying to navigate it to get food for their families…to try to navigate this dangerous area to get to work, to go see a friend, to just go for a walk.
     
  • Too little has changed in that area since my Daddy’s death…yes, they did put out a sign that says the speed limit is now 20 miles per hour, and there’s a flashing light. However, that’s not enough, that flashing light is just at one end. You know, I see all these stories where the city is celebrating the safety around the baseball field, the safety around the football field, the safety for walkers in the areas where people go to expensive restaurants…what about the safety in the normal neighborhoods where people live? What about the safety for walkers who maybe don’t have a job? What about pedestrian safety for people who don’t even have a home?

Anthony

  • Earlier, you were talking about your Daddy’s diligence when it came to following rules, and being careful. Can you tell me some more about that?

Shemeka

  • Yes. You know…me and my Daddy walked a lot together. From the time me and my sister were just little kids, up to when he passed away. My Daddy loved to walk. Let me tell you, because this goes back to his military training…he so enjoyed the running and PT that came with being in the military. My Daddy always kept us active. I told you about how he grew up in South Nashville, in Antioch…well we lived in that area at one point when we were younger, and we would walk across Lafayette, that’s Murfreesboro Road, every single day in the Summer. We’d go to Cameron High School where they had a track, he’d take us walking, we had to run laps…and that’s really how I got my beginning in terms of what I do know – fitness professional. My Daddy pushed that for us. So I spent a lot of time walking with my Daddy…in the woods, on the city streets, all over. Even though he had a stroke, and he couldn’t run like he used to, he walked with his cane. So we witnessed the transformation of my Daddy from being the man who ran into a man who walked with a cane, but he never abandoned his love of moving around with his feet. He gave that love of walking to me and my sister, and he was giving it to his grandchildren up until he was killed.

Anthony

  • Can you tell me about that day when you discovered that he had died.

Shemeka

  • Well…I live in Murfreesboro, but my Daddy lived in Nashville. So whenever I would come to town, we’d make a plan to see one another. So as I did business in Nashville, or if it had been a minute, I’d come through and see him. So…the first studio that I ever held my fitness and dance classes at, was right around the corner from the project where my Daddy lived. The studio was on 11th, and Daddy was right there at Buchanan and Garfield. So I would literally have to pass my Daddy’s street to get to my studio. So I’d pass my Daddy’s place all of the time…and I still do, but it doesn’t make me sad, it gives me a jolt of love. So the day that my Daddy died…well, let me back up. 3 days before he died, we had a really good talk…discussed some family business, just one of those talks where we found a little peace with one another. So three days later, I’m headed to Nashville…it’s dusk, I get off the Interstate…no kids are in the car with me…I get off of Rosa Parks, I try to turn down Daddy’s street – Buchanan – but it’s blocked off by the police. The police tape is out there. I’ve been in the car 35, 40, 45 minutes…I don’t know what’s going on with the news or nothing like that. I think to myself, “well, they got something going on with Daddy’s street.” And whenever you see an accident, you always try to say blessings for anyone injured, or just something positive…and I did that. Nothing in me thought that it might be my Daddy who had been hurt…not MY Daddy, my Daddy is strong, my Daddy is a beast. So I couldn’t turn there, so I had to go up and around. So I walk into the studio, I sit my things down, and I walk into the office and the others have the TV on and they’re all not working, they’re just watching the TV…the news story about what had happened on Daddy’s street. It’s so close in proximity to the studio, that everyone wants to know what’s going on…it’s literally less than a half-mile away. Nobody knows who is involved and who’s been injured. So when I first look at the TV, I see that ill-fated image of the shoes in the crosswalk…the police lights are strobing. So I immediately think to myself, “so that’s why I could not turn down Daddy’s street.” So as I’m watching, as we’re all watching, my phone begins to ring…it’s my Uncle Charles. He says to me, “Shemeka, be calm…your Daddy has been struck and killed.” So I’m looking at the TV, I’m hearing these words from my Uncle…and I just keep saying “no” while he keeps saying “yes.” Finally, he got stern with me and said “Shemeka, yes!” I then realize that what I’m watching is not a stranger, not some random person in the area…it’s my Daddy. I was immediately filled with questions…how long has this been going on? Is his body still there? The secretary at the studio tells me to get in the car, and that she’ll drive me to my Daddy’s place. So I get to his place where he lived with his girlfriend, and they’ve been together for twenty-something years…her children are there, she’s crying. I walk in the house…there’s no ambulance there…my mind is all over the place, but when things like this happen, I’m all business. I’m not going to fall apart…I’m not going to give into the emotion, we’ll handle the emotion later, first we have to handle the business. So I walk in…my Daddy’s girlfriend is in a heap. Things were all over the place, but most importantly I walked out of there with his reading glasses…I just needed something that was of him. I didn’t pay any attention to the other stuff that was there. He didn’t have much, but the nothingness was not him…he had everything in his heart and his mind. My Daddy and I had bonded during my two times overcoming cancer…we got each other. So what he did or didn’t have, in terms of possessions, that didn’t matter.

Anthony

  • What a powerful way to negotiate so many different kinds of emotions…

Shemeka

  • You know…his body was unviewable at the funeral. Can you imagine the damage metal at a high speed does to a person’s physical frame? I think they said the woman driving the car was going 45 miles per hour…you know what the speed signs out there say now? 20. That’s more than double. So I find some comfort that he was gone instantly. I don’t even know if I answered your question.

Anthony

  • You did.

Shemeka

  • I loved him…I love him. I miss him…and he was never a missing Daddy. My Daddy raised us.

Anthony

  • I’m honored that you’ve taken the time to share his story.

Shemeka

  • I’m honored that you wanted to hear his story.

Anthony

  • I know you and your family became very active after his death, and you’ve obviously had some success in improving the safety in that area. I’d love to hear some more about that.

Shemeka

  • You’re so fabulous for saying that…let me tell you…so for my energy, for my processing of his death…not to let that energy be bottled up, but to do something with that energy…my way to process, to let that energy through, was to go to work…I saw a need, the need to improve pedestrian conditions in that area…and to be able to use the love of my Daddy to make that happen…wow! It was just like magic…like medicine. Not to curl up and freeze, but to let loose and help in the wake of this tragedy. This is my great thought about all of this…if I could do something magical, and just assist those people who are still over there walking…I can’t buy them a car, I can’t give them socioeconomic skills, I can’t move them from where they are…but can I make them safer? Can I use the tragedy of losing my Daddy to get in touch with the news channels, to put some pressure on the city…can I do something to make it safer for them to walk to the store, to walk to a friend’s house. In the end, I can say that something came from my Daddy leaving us…and not just sadness, and improvement in the world and an improvement in that area. That’s such a beautiful use of energy. To use what he said I had to have as a kid – education. I had to have skills to talk and interact with other people. I had to be willing to be open and honest about truth. I used all of that to help bring about positive change in the area where he died. So many of those people over there will never know my Daddy, even less as the years go by, but they will benefit from what he trained me to do, and what I did after he died.