Friday, June 17, 2011

A memorial

Sabina Rose O'Donnell loved to ride her bicycle. When she was 8 or 9 and she and her mother would ride together on a trail close to their home. We were their neighbors and friends. We later moved away and they moved away. Nevertheless, we kept in touch, in the distant way that parents who are busy raising children keep in touch when they do not live in the immediate area - a way full of good intentions, occasional phone calls but scarce opportunities for actual time together, trusting tomorrow to provide a time for a reunion.

Sabina continued riding a bicycle as a young woman, even while going to school, dancing, working, modeling, making friends, starting out in the world on her own. She saved her money to buy her dream bike - a beautiful Masi single speed with an artistic attention to detail. As far as I know, Sabina did not race, or ride epic distances, but she did not limit herself to weekends and daytime trips. As far as I know, she rode for pleasure and, by choice, for transportation. As far as I know, she rode because she loved to ride, loved the freedom and the independence and because she had the nerve to believe that a young woman could ride a bicycle through the streets of Philadelphia.

Sabina’s ride through life was filled with the love of family and friends, grace and beauty, laughter and aspiration and inspiration. That life ended in an unspeakable act of violence when she was brutally murdered by a complete stranger who saw her riding a bicycle on the streets of Philadelphia, pursued her, attacked her and then killed her.

Sabina’s friends and family have not let that act of violence become the last word in Sabina’s story. They gathered together in their grief and turned the debris strewn lot where her physical life ended into a memorial garden.

A little more than one year has passed since that tragic night. Her birth date is approaching. This Sunday, in her memory, a few people will gather to ride a 20 mile route in Philadelphia. 20 miles because she was 20 years old. We will follow a route than links parts of her life, her former home, school, the Sabina Rose gardens and ride on bike paths she rode. This is not a fundraiser or a sponsored event. It is a simple mobile memorial, a chance for those who knew her, and those who did not, to recall her life and honor her nerve. Or perhaps it is a silent protest, a way to say that acts of evil will not tarnish the memory of a vibrant young woman who cherished life and her freedom.

If you would like to join us, we will meet at 8:00 a.m. on Sunday June 19, 2011 at 314 West Tulpehocken Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The route can be found here: Route for Sabina Rose Memorial Ride

RIDE AT YOUR OWN RISK.This is an "unsupported" unsponsored free gathering. You are responsible for yourself. *Ride at your own risk* Make your momma happy- wear a helmet. No fee = no free food. Bring water. Bring money for food or bring something to eat. Its just meant to be a simple ride among friends on OPEN ROADS . THIS IS NOT A RACE. Very Very bad things can happen when you ride a bike. Including acts of negligence, illness, injury, death and other terrible things. I take no responsibility for any of that. Look out for each other. Be careful. Have fun. Remember Sabina .


  1. Wow, this is amazing!!!! I'm Sabina's 3rd cousin, it broke my heart really badly when I found out that she was killed! I grew up with her all my life since I was about 7 or 8 years old. I miss her so much and I still grief her death but there's a LOT of fond memories of me and her and our childhood!! Thank you so much for writing this!!!

  2. Sarah, Thank you for responding. You are not alone in missing Sabina. Many people have fond memories of her.

  3. The memorial ride took place as scheduled. The weather was beautiful. We visited many places that were meaningful to Sabina and, by riding, we did so in a way that she would have enjoyed. Hope many more people join us next year. But even if that does not happen, the ride will go on again.