Friday, May 1, 2009
A memorial for Blanca Ocasio
by John Greenfield
On Thursday, September 11, over 150 relatives, friends and neighbors gathered in Logan Square to honor Blanca Ocasio, placing a “ghost bike” at Armitage and Kedzie where she was struck one year ago. Ocasio, a 19-year-old pharmacy student nicknamed “Chi-chi,” was pedaling eastbound on Armitage when a garbage truck overtook her and swung south onto Kedzie, trapping her underneath.
Six months later schoolteacher Amanda Annis, 24, was killed on her bike at the same location after a car ran a red. The advocacy group Logan Square Walks is lobbying for safety improvements at the intersection such as adding a red light camera, tightening curb radii and striping bike lanes; workers recently repainted the crosswalks and stop bars.
Ocasio’s family requested the memorial from Chicago Ghost Bikes, which has installed several other tributes to fallen cyclists. The crowd assembled at Palmer Square, two blocks north of the intersection, many wearing t-shirts with Ocasio’s image and messages like “Lost a friend but gained and angel,” and “R.I.P. Chi-chi girl.” Blanca’s father Ramon told them, “As she looks down from heaven at us I know that she’s smiling,” urging them to be careful when driving.
Her loved ones then walked with lit prayer candles to the crash site, followed by dozens of cyclists walking their vehicles. After the white bike was chained to a light pole, mourners added candles and flowers. Chicago Ghost Bikes’ Howard Kaplan hoped the event provides closure for Ocasio’s family, adding “They probably feel they’re a little less alone with their loss.”