Street memorial for Zachary Cole
Street memorial for Zachary Cole

I drive by the intersection of Warring and Derby several times a week and I am always struck by the flowers, balloons, and cards set up at the spot where 5-year-old Zachary Cruz was killed in February.

I do not know if it is his parents, his family’s friends, or just members of the broader community who place all of the loving tributes.  And at times I wonder if there isn’t a more appropriate — and by that I mean happier — spot to commemorate his life.

But the flowers do force me to remember Zachary Cole, who died while walking with  other children from LeConte Elementary to an after-school program at the Clark Kerr campus. He was hit by a truck taking a left hand turn from Warren onto Derby.

It seems like such an innocent intersection. There is a four-way stop and cars don’t tend to travel fast on the road. Yet clearly it is not. When I drive by I am reminded that life can grab the ones we love quickly, without any warning.

In recent days, someone has set a bright orange pumpkin decorated with Zachary’s name on the spot where he died.  Halloween is Saturday and clearly the donor is thinking that Zachary would have enjoyed the holiday.

Frances Dinkelspiel

Frances Dinkelspiel (co-founder) is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California,...

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  1. I wanted the city or the powers that be to fix that intersection, since the 28th of Feb, 2009. The day after my grandson Zachary was killed at this poorly maintained intersection. Some one from the University asked me what they could do? and I told her, fix this intersection and make it perfect and then name it after my beautiful grandson.” She didn’t know what to say. Well I just visited that intersection on Feb 27th, 2011 two years later. And guess what, some kind citizen placed the sign at the corner. I’d love to know who did it? Even more than that I’d like to know who didn’t fix the intersection. IE. Move the stop sign up to the stop line. and repaint the complete word STOP. A pedestrian stop light would be nice too. But sadly nothing has psychically changed there and the amount of people who still roll the STOP signs is still the same. 7 out of 10. Maybe it’s a good thing that someone named the corner after Zach as that is the one thing that did change. “He’s GONE mom” and with that we (Zach’s Family) have changed forever as a result of apathetic politicians, teachers, bus drivers, and one welding truck driver. By the way Frances Dinkelspiel Zach Cruz loved Halloween, it was truly his favorite holiday, He was a Ghost Buster for his last Halloween.

  2. I’m curious about what time of day is most dangerous for pedestrians in Berkeley. I’m guessing 3 to 6 pm. I see kids getting out of school and/or leaving their afterschool activities, parents preoccupied with same, commuters en route home, UC students getting their errands done, and suddenly it seems like our quiet metropolis becomes a bustling city whilst we still individually act like we’re living in a small town.

    The Zachary story is such a heartbreaker.

  3. Actually, it’s not a reminder to slow down, but a reminder to obey traffic rules. Cars routinely “Hollywood stop” (slide through) this crosswalk and crosswalks all over Berkeley. Try walking downtown. On red lights, cars ignore the crosswalks and drive through up to the point where they almost enter the /traffic/ portion of the road with the green light.

    If drivers were routinely stopping at red lights so they block the lane of the road with the green light, you can bet the police would be handing out tickets right and left trying to get people to obey the law and not block the intersection. I would like to see the police handing out tickets to all these drivers who ignore the right of way of pedestrians, endangering their lives.

  4. Frances: I am so glad you posted this. I too drive by that spot regularly and it breaks my heart a little every time I see the memorial. It’s a good reminder to slow down too.