The Reality: Fatality and Motorcycling

Outer Banks Spring Trip 2009

Thank you to everyone who has been concerned about Diana, myself, the Fortner family and First State HOG. I have received many e-mails and phone calls from people representing HOG chapters and individuals who have offered support and caring through messages of hope and prayer.

Two weeks ago today a terrible thing happened and we are still dealing with it and still grieving. Diana and I lost one of our best friends in an accident caused by a reckless driver. Unlike most incidents of motorcycle fatality that we have heard or read about, we were actually there and felt helpless as we waited for emergency workers to arrive on the scene.

We were on a trip to the Outer banks of North Carolina for OBX Bike Week. We had a group of twenty or so motorcyclists excited about a three day excursion on a sunny weekend. The group was very diverse. Some riders were young men on their first motorcycle trip, others were veteran riders who have taken trips across the country and back. It was Diana’s first motorcycle trip riding her own motorcycle. The sun was shining and we were traveling down Rt 13 South approaching the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel with grins on our faces from ear to ear. We were in our glory. Then in a split second lives changed forever!

A women named Dawn Marie Williams of Cape Charles, VA drove a red Ford Taurus straight through our pack of 20 Harley-Davidson motorcycles killing our very dear friend Karen and injuring two young men, one was her son. Dawn came out from a gravel driveway on the right side of route 13 and darted almost straight across to the turn lane without hesitation or looking to check if traffic was coming. She is being charged with vehicular manslaughter and if her blood test comes back positive she will be charged with vehicular homicide.

Dream as if you will live forever… Live as if you will die tomorrow.

James Dean

Riding motorcycles is dangerous, we all know it. It’s a rush and we are proud to spit in the eye of convention knowing that we are living life as an adventure and sneering at the cowards who play life safe. Everyday is a gift and we should continue to live life to the fullest, unfortunately there is a reality to living on the edge. This is the reality.

There was nothing we could do differently to avoid the unthinkable. This was totally outside our control. We couldn’t stop Dawn Marie from killing our friend anymore then we could stop the attacks on 911. None the less, we are heart broken and miss her immensely.

We will not forget Karen; her spirit was bigger than life. She touched and inspired hundreds of people. We will honor her by continuing to live life to the fullest, riding our motorcycles, making other people laugh and smile… and giving those who need a hug a hug before they even know they need it.

15 Responses to “The Reality: Fatality and Motorcycling”

  1. I am so sorry for your loss. I will keep you and Karen’s family in my thoughts.

  2. I am so sorry for your loss. I will keep you and Karen’s family in my thoughts.
    Should say great post! Looking forward to seeing your next post!

  3. I have seen many accidents and some of my own down. I have yet to witness one of my own close friends never get up from it though. I have had friends taken but have never been there to actually see it.

    I just don’t know what to say. I have had friends give up the bike because they heard or watched one of their friends go down. Riding is a risk but so is crossing the street.

    I’m sorry about the pain, anger, confusion and sorrow you both must feel. There wasn’t anything you could do and even if you could have it won’t change the now. I dunno…when things like this happen I kinda wonder what the brother or sister would want me to do for them. I guess you are doing some of that here.

    Best wishes. Time will take care of the pain, but will never let you forget. Give my best to the family and the chapter.

  4. What a sad, sad end to a day that started out with such hope.

    Losing a fellow rider – even one never met – under such circumstances brings pain to all of us, hopefully taking some off your shoulders in the process.

    Condolences to all Karen’s family and friends. Clearly she will be missed.

  5. You already know my feelings, so I say this for the benefit of those who don’t.

    As a crash survivor, I wonder a bit about returning home safe every time I swing my leg over. Just a bit though. When you make the choice of passion over risk, you can’t dwell on the “what ifs” for too long or you’ll go crazy. But, as Dave said, I’ve never been through what you have, and my heart aches for all concerned. It is an unimaginable tragedy.

    You do need time, and I hope when enough of it has passed, your grief will have eased, and what’s left will be nothing but fond memories of the happy times with Karen. You must ride on for her. She was a biker, and I have to believe that’s what she would have wanted. Random chance does not always operate in our favor, but we must not allow that to keep us from our passion for riding. We can only hope that when we go out, it’s just not our turn that day.

  6. I wont speak for all, perhaps not for any but myself, but I have to beleive that I am not the only one. There are moments when I am on my bike and something out of my control happens and I get shook up, that I begin to ponder just what I am doing on this roaring machine between my legs with little or no protection from anything other then my own reflexes and experience. This reflection lasts a moment or two, sometimes longer after something really unexpected happens, but each and every time the feeling of freedom, of livng with each breath drawn so sweet, the feeling only those who truelly love this dangerous, daring and demanding sport or lifestyle for many of us, returns and affirms why….all of us who throw that leg over a roaring engine and grip it with anticipation, with desire, with sheer tenacity to dwell among the cagers and feel life with every moment we have left…..that is why. I know Karen, Ed, Justin and all of our extended families all share that moment…that desire and yes Joker “passion”…Karen will share a moment, that moment with me every time I dare to grip it, as she will with all her family and extended family…..she can’t be forgotten, we wont let it happen

  7. It’s always a sad occasion to hear that one of us was downed. Shocking story and sad day it was. Karen, yourself, Diane and your family and friends will be in my prayers. May she rest in peace.

  8. Happy Mothers Day Karen – You deserve the Gold Medal for raising 3 wonderful – respectful – loving sons -not to mention the hundreds of others that viewed you as their mom. It breaks my heart everyday to look over at your house and know there is nothing we can say or do to take away the pain your family and friends are going through. I missed out on getting to really know you – but you will always be in my heart. I know you are watching over them from above – we are here if they need anything across the street- Happy Mothers Day to an amazing woman who touched so many people!

  9. The dark side is not just an a “concept”… For many of us, it’s very real. We’ve seen, experienced the dark cloak as it spread over someone either in front of us or behind us in a column… Someone we know, knew. loved…it’s very real and it stays with us everyday.
    I’m sorry you’ve come so close to the dark side, none of us want or expect it’s shadowed shoulders to darken our paths, but it’s a good test…are we strong enough for this path we’ve chosen? Do we continue to choose to honor our loved one by riding…or do we find another path to walk…and honor them in another way…?


  10. The loss of a friend is always a time to reflect and honor those we will miss.
    I often find this poem written in 1932 by a lady named Mary Fry to be of some solace.

    Do Not Weep

    Do not stand at my grave and weep
    I am not there, I do not sleep
    I am a thousand winds that blow
    I am the diamond glints in the snow.

    I am the sun on ripened grain,
    I am the gentle autumn rain

    When you awaken in the morning’s hush
    I am the soft uplifting rush
    of quiet birds in circled flight.
    I am the soft stars that shine at night.

    Do not stand at my grave and cry,
    I am not there, I did not die.

  11. I have sat down to comment on this post, I don’t know how many times. I just can’t find the words, but you know I am praying.

  12. Sad so sad. Sorry for your lose. All said here is very true. Two of my sons also ride. I at times feel like a hypocrite cause I wish they would not. But they too feel the spirit of the road that dad feels. I pray that we all come home safe every day. One watched me work on my own bikes he went to MMI and works at an HD shop. I just pray no one else has to feel the helplessness you all had to of felt that fateful day. May God bring all of you peace.

  13. I’ve been really behind on blogging as of late, and I am catching this on the tail end. I am so sorry to hear about your loss. May her spirit ride free.

  14. Down here, from Brazil, my sincere condolences for the loss of your friend.

  15. The love and respect you all have shown for Karen, will live on in your hearts and minds. She will not be forgotten.

    RIP Karen

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