“My goal is to keep Christina’s legacy alive. That’s why I’m working with my community to raise awareness and educate students about the dangers of distracted walking.”
My name is Gwen Ward. I live in Montgomery County, Maryland. Last year, my family suffered an unthinkable tragedy. My 15-year-old daughter, Christina, was killed while crossing the street on her way to school.
Christina was an incredible kid. She was outgoing and opinionated and loved to debate, especially with me. She was a typical teenager in all the right ways.
One of my favorite times with Christina was on weekend mornings. That’s when we would drive over to 7-Eleven together for coffee first thing in the morning. Christina never missed a coffee run. She was always right there by my side, ready with her order.
But then one day, my life changed forever.
On Halloween morning in 2012, Christina was crossing the street just two blocks from Seneca Valley High School, where she attended school as a sophomore. Dressed in dark clothes and wearing headphones, Christina was looking down at her phone as she started to cross the street. Just before she got to the other side of the intersection, an oncoming car hit her.
Shortly after it happened, I received a call from my son, who was in a panic. The police had come to the house to tell him that Christina was in an accident.
I left work immediately and rushed to the hospital. But it was too late. The doctor told me they had done everything they could, but my daughter had died.
I was in complete shock. I just kept looking at Christina laying there on the hospital bed and tried to make sense of how something like this could possibly happen.
One of the most painful things about that horrific day is knowing that there are many things that could have been prevented.
If only Christina wasn’t looking down at her phone while she was crossing the street and saw the oncoming car. If only the driver was more careful and on the lookout for kids walking to school. If only other people walking nearby had tried to get Christina’s attention to take off her headphones.
While I can’t undo what happened, I can try to make sure that no other families have to go through what I’m going through.
Today, my goal is to keep Christina’s legacy alive. That’s why I’m working with my community to raise awareness and educate students about the dangers of distracted walking. Together with school and government officials and the police department, we’re talking to kids about how to walk safely to school.
We’re distributing reflectors for kids to wear when it gets dark and urging them to remove their earphones when crossing the street. We’re also asking everyone to help get the word out and educate other kids about the dangers of distracted walking. It’s what Christina would want.
Christina had such passion for the friends around her. And after she passed away, I was inspired by the stories her friends told and how much of an impact she had on them. I’m so proud of my daughter, knowing that she was such a respectful and caring person, who was always there for others.
It’s what gets me through each day and inspires me to continue advocating for other kids. Although it’s difficult, I know that Christina is looking down on me, giving me the thumbs up and peace sign, saying, 'Go, mom.'