IAAL•MAF: It Takes A Vigil (UPDATED)

Earlier today I posted about the vigil being arranged for 23-year-old Ilia Pankin who died Monday after being struck while cycling through the intersection of Santa Monica and Wilshire boulevards in Beverly Hills. MAF regulars Sean, Steve, Blogdowntown’s Eric, myself and new recruit MIchael agreed to forego our regular Wednesday evening river romp and instead roll over and do honor to the memory of the young man.

The five of us were the first to arrive at the fountain and for a few minutes it looked like we might be the only ones, but other cyclists started getting to the landmark until we were about 20 strong. At some point a KCBS/KCAL newsvan arrived, and after that so did one from KABC. Candles were lighted. Conversation was muted as we somberly milled about amidst rolling cameras and tried to come to grips with the tragedy.

And then unexpectedly, Ilia’s mother and family members and friends were there with us and any emotional separation we had to the tragedy was erased as we stood awkwardly before this woman in the midst of her inconsolable grief and loss. Even so, she was able to express how grateful she was to see us there for her son whose picture she placed at the base of the fountain and surrounded with candles and flowers. She told us that he was Ukranian by birth and that bicycling was his absolute passion and he left behind a 14-year-old sister and that the funeral would most likely be at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. She told us that a UPS package arrived today with a new bike helmet he had ordered last week. When she put her arms around me in tears I hugged her back and told her how remarkably strong she was and how sorry I was. I didn’t know what else to say so I just held her.

Later, before we left for the ride home, I knelt before the picture she had brought and I looked into his eyes. Again I was at a loss for words other than “Rest in peace, Ilia.”

UPDATED (09.21): The vigil warranted inclusion in KCAL’s 10 p.m. newscast last night. Youtube video embed is after the jump.

4 thoughts on “IAAL‚Ä¢MAF: It Takes A Vigil (UPDATED)”

  1. I keep thinking about this as well and as I mentioned after the ride last night this hit me more on the way home then during. I keep thinking about how odd it was at first that none of us knew him but had all shown up because we all felt some connection with a young cyclist being killed so instantly and wanted to show some kind of support. And then his mom and family showed up and it changed the feel of everything. Not that it wasn’t somber to begin with, but with none of us knowing him and having that direct connection something was missing. I keep thinking about how she must have felt getting a call and being told that there were people she didn’t even know holding a vigil for her son. The whole time she was there she kept repeating how grateful she was and thanked everyone for coming out, but I don’t think I actually heard what she was saying until got home and had a chance to think about it.

  2. Thanks for the nice post and comment, Sean.

    I think what you experienced is the true beauty of the human family–We’re truly leaves of one tree, drops in one ocean, roses in the garden of humanity.

    I also think that if one has ever rode their bike in LA they’ve thought of how (regrettably) dangerous it can be. Thus, when this tragedy occurred, I couldn’t help but think that Ilia could have been me or any other of my friends who bike in LA. Thus, as with many other tragedies that occur on a daily and global basis, we realize that that the person who has suffered or died, could have been us.

    I used to bike around LA as a form of exercise, but now I just run as I find it to be safer. Thus, I ran to the gathering site from Westwood last night to leave a candle in his memory (on the corner diagonal to the fountain).

    May God bless Ilya’s soul and the soul of all others around the world whose lives have ended prematurely.

  3. God bless you Ilya.
    This resonates as I am one of the few who cannot ride a bike – I grew up near a busy intersection in Orange County and remember kids on bikes getting hit by cars. One time I remember standing on Beach Blvd. and this child was horribly injured and they wanted to do emergency surgery but the kid had no ID so everyone was just floundering. So that’s how my parents dealt with it.
    Now I live in Belmont Shore and my son is almost 2 and already obsessed with bikes. Of course he will learn to ride, but this all takes me back. I’ve “learned” to ride several times in adulthood, but unfortunately it is one of those things rather hard to pick up if you did not learn it as a kid.
    Tonight, reading this, I’m also confronted as this intersection is one I travel frequently (I am a cantor at the Church of the Good Shepherd right there)- being a pedestrian at this intersection is indeed very dangerous (a trip to Starbuks quickly becomes perilous). I hope the city will take some measure to make it safer (could it have been safer?)

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