COLUMBIA - Hundreds of people from across South Carolina and other states gathered Saturday at a Memorial Service held by the SC Department of Public Safety (SCDPS) to remember the 809 men, women and children killed on South Carolina roadways last year.
Victims' families and friends, as well as representatives of the state's public safety community - law enforcement, fire fighters, emergency medical services and coroners - gathered at Lexington Baptist Church for an event featuring music, a photo display, a message from the church's pastor and a video tribute listing the names of each person killed in a traffic collision in 2010.
"Behind each name and each photograph, there is a broken-hearted family or circle of friends that will never be quite the same," SCDPS Director Mark Keel told the audience. "That's why SCDPS and other law enforcement agencies work so diligently to enforce our state's traffic laws and to educate the public."
Families - some as far away as Canada and Germany - sent photographs of their loved ones to include in the video. "Although they couldn't come to the service, they wanted to make sure that their family members were not forgotten," Keel said.
The service is held to remember residents and visitors killed on South Carolina roadways, to bring together families and friends of the deceased and to educate the public in an effort to prevent future loss of life on the state's roads. The service started in 1988 and is thought to be the only one of its kind in the country.
South Carolina experienced fewer traffic deaths in 2010 compared to the 894 killed in 2009, but Keel emphasized that more needs to be done to continue to lower the tragic toll collisions cause in our state.
Keel told the audience that SCDPS takes each loss personally, adding that the public safety community was again touched by traffic deaths in 2010. He referenced the Columbia fire fighter killed when he was struck by a motorist and the state trooper killed in a single car collision, marking the third year in a row the Highway Patrol experienced a traffic fatality.
"Traffic fatalities don't discriminate," said Phil Riley, Director of the SCDPS' Office of Highway Safety, which coordinated the service. "Families that attend this event are mourning everyone from little children to grandparents and they come from all racial backgrounds."
Family members also brought photographs of their loved ones to display during the service and SCDPS erected a temporary Memorial Wall of Remembrance in the church foyer.
The wall, with words printed in white on a black background, listed the name of each traffic victim. People took time before and after the service finding their loved ones' names on one of three panels of the structure. Some people took photographs, while others simply touched a name and quietly moved on.
The South Carolina Department of Public Safety includes the Highway Patrol, Office of Highway Safety, State Transport Police, Bureau of Protective Services, Office of Justice Programs and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Officers Hall of Fame. Our mission is to ensure public safety by protecting and serving the people of South Carolina and its visitors.
Be the first to know
Get local news delivered to your inbox!