Last spring I was greeted by a student right when he arrived at school. "Mrs. Bundy, did you hear about the bike accident?" he asked abruptly. This student was not a student who usually hung out next to me at the door of the school while I did morning duty so I intently listened to him describe what happened outside of his house the previous evening.
"Yeah, an old man ran a red light and hit him. His wife and kid were there too. The old guy said that the sun was setting and it was in his eyes so he just didn't see him. I had to run to the park to go get my little brother," he explained.
I was devastated to hear such a tragic story and could not stop thinking about this bike accident. As I led my students through their art lesson, I wondered about whom of my students had likely witnessed this accident. I wondered about the families whose lives were changed in an instant. That previous night had been one of our first sunny days of spring and I know most people were out enjoying the weather.
When I checked my e-mail later that morning, there was a message sent to a group of art teachers that had been working together on designing a visual arts curriculum for our district. We had become a pretty tight group and had just had a meeting the night before.
"My husband was hit by a car last night on his bicycle. We are in the ICU and he has already had surgery for a broken neck. Needless to say, my commitments to our curriculum team and the Heart of Portland events are questionable at this time while we figure out our moment by moment next steps," Hanne wrote. I knew that Hanne lived in the neighborhood where my school was located. This was the accident that my student told me about earlier. I was shocked to realize that I personally knew the wife and child that were experiencing this horrible tragedy.
I have thought about Hanne, Brian and their daughter every day since the accident last spring. Their lives were changed that night forever. I have struggled with what to do to help and honor them as they struggle through their new daily lives.
"I know what I can do!" I thought as I wrote a quick email to the community coordinator at New Seasons. New Seasons Market is a local grocery chain who has provided a space to hang student artwork for the past two years and Allison, their community coordinator, had previously asked if I thought art teachers would want to have an art show there. Maybe we should have a benefit art show to raise money for Hanne?
After confirming with Hanne, we organized and about 25 people donated work for the show. We had paintings, collages, illustrations, photographs and prints. It was on display for the month of September and many people from the neighborhood and city (and even some from Pennsylvania and Alaska) supported Hanne and her family by buying work. Brain even created some paintings, very adaptively, with the little movement that he has in his arms. It was a success as we raised over $1000 to help with the family's medical expenses. It has been a privilege to organize this event and I am grateful to New Seasons for being such a strong supporter of their neighborhood and the Portland community. And of course, my heart goes out to Hanne and Brian as they continue to adapt. I wish there was more we could do.