A sea of shoes during a memorial in Raleigh represents thousands of deaths, injuries on NC roads

Anthony Wilson Image
Monday, November 20, 2023
A sea of shoes represented thousands of deaths, injuries on NC roads
Families held a memorial in Raleigh to remember the lives of loved ones lost to traffic accidents over the past year.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Allison Simpson is the wife of Matthew Simpson, a man hit and killed in July 2022 while biking in Durham.

"On a Sunday like today, our family was doing what many families enjoy about living in North Carolina. We were enjoying time outside together on one of the many bike and pedestrian trails on our way home. Matt was hit by a speeding car in front of myself and our two young children, then ages 22 months and 4 years old. The speeding car ran the red light, hit Matt, and never stopped," she said on NC World Remembrance Day for Road Traffic victims.

"Our lives were completely shattered in an instant. This has been an unimaginable loss for our family. We are working so hard to process the horror of that day and cope with the void that is left in our family without Matt. Our son, now five, says he misses listening to music together with Da-da, and Da-da saying 'I love you.' Our daughter, now three, looks at pictures of Da-da and remembers that Da-da was funny. And I'm trying to support our children while missing the support and presence of my best friend and life partner of 17 years."

Allison said Matthew was a truly unique and one-of-a-kind person and approached the world with a deep curiosity.

"He was kind. He was brilliant, both intellectually and creatively. Yet he was humble and unassuming. He had a gentle nature and could be incredibly silly. He enjoyed taking deep dives into anything that caught his interest," she said. "And above all else, Matt loved spending time with his family. We had a family song called 'Together wherever we go.' I am dedicated to keeping that memory alive and honoring him and everything I do."

"The World Day of Remembrance is an opportunity to remember and honor those we have loved and lost to traffic violence and to feel supported by our community in the wake of such senseless tragedy. And it is an opportunity to raise awareness so we can stop traffic violence. Traffic violence is preventable. Fulfilling North Carolina's Vision Zero pledge to end roadways, deaths, and serious injuries is completely possible. We know what works, there just has to be the will to do it."

Allison said the shoe memorial is a visual representation of the lives lost and is a reminder to do better.

"Far too many lives have been lost and significantly impacted by traffic violence. There are immediate actions that North Carolina can take to save lives. The state can fund standalone bike and pedestrian safety projects, independent of larger roadway projects. Stop the restrictions that limit funding for these life-saving projects and prioritize safe streets for people to remember and honor Matt," she said.

She said she brought a pair of Matt's shoes to place along with the thousands at the memorial.

"It made me think of how Matt did not take any decision lightly, including what shoes to get. And I will put my hand on my heart as I do with our children when we want to take a moment and think of da da and remember his love. We still feel Matt's love every day. We always will. He will always be part of us," Allison said.

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Sylvia Wiggins, best known for her work with the Helping Hand Mission is also the great aunt of 12-year-old Samantha Briggs, hit and killed one day after her birthday while crossing a Raleigh street in November 2022.

"I just want to thank the response team and the people that came out for the situation with Samantha," she said. "She was in the (2022 Raleigh Christmas) parade when it was coming down the street and we heard about the beautiful little girl named Hailey who lost her life. Samantha cried, cried, cried about that. Then she told me later on when (Hailey) passed...'We were the same age. We could have been friends.' That was the kind of person she was."

Wiggins said the day Samantha died she was packing boxes to deliver to families when she got the news.

"Someone (called and)said, 'Well you need to get here quick.' I said 'What happened?' She said 'Your niece just got hit by a car,'" Wiggins recalled.

"Her birthday was the previous day. She begged us to go spend the night with her friends, that's who she was hanging out with when this incident happened. At the time that this happened, I had mixed emotions. I was just so outdone, I was shocked. I was sad. But when I heard that the person who hit her kept on going, then I got angry. Because I couldn't believe who would hit a child and leave her in the street like this."

"In hindsight, there was not a stop sign (where it happened) on Hillsborough Street up there...We need to work on the roads, stop signs, lights, and whatever it takes, caution lights. Because I went there one night (and) I saw a lot of kids running cross... right? And I said, my God, we need a light....I'm speaking on behalf of so many people that couldn't make it today, (who are) really going through something right now."