Permanent memorial dedicated for Bowen, 14
Villa Park, IL -
On Feb. 11, 2006, 14-year-old Kristen Bowen of Lombard died crossing the railroad tracks while taking a shortcut along the tracks about a quarter mile from Addison Road, near North Terrace Park in Villa Park.
The Willowbrook student’s death galvanized the community into demanding fencing along the tracks in popular crossing areas in Lombard and Villa Park. A special railroad safety task force consisting of state officials, Union Pacific chiefs and law enforcement representatives also was formed.
Kristen’s family erected a temporary memorial to her at North Terrace Park. But 17-year-old Tiffany Davis, who knew Kristen and helped raise funds to install fencing, decided a permanent memorial was needed.
“It was something I felt I wanted to do for myself, the family and the community,” Tiffany said.
After Kristen’s death Tiffany became the youngest member in Illinois of Operation Lifesavers, an organization that promotes railroad safety; she hopes the permanent memorial raises awareness. She raised funds for it through a car wash and two battle of the bands events.
The memorial, which is dedicated to Kristen and anyone else who has lost their lives on the railroad, was dedicated Saturday morning.
“It turned out better than we expected,” said Villa Park Trustee John Davis, Tiffany’s father and author of Kristen’s Law, which seeks to put barriers along tracks that are near schools and parks. Davis hopes to get the law adopted on the state level and then at the federal level.
He estimated that about 60 people came out for the ceremony.
Ray Zukowski, Kristen’s father and founder of Targeting Education Awareness & Railroad Safety, was pleased with the turnout.
“It was wonderful,” Zukowski said. “Everything went really well.”
Like Tiffany, he hopes the memorial will act as a deterrent to anyone who’s considering unsafe behavior on the tracks. The memorial consists of a large boulder with a bronze plaque on it, an oak tree and 200 tulips.
“We’re hoping the memorial will save lives just like the fence will,” he said.
Kristen Bowen's sister Margie McCaleb (left) and
friend Tiffany Davis lay down flowers beside the memorial at North Terrace Park on Saturday.
Photo by Erica Benson
Kristen Bowen's father Ray Zukowski and
friend Tiffany Davis gather Saturday at
North Terrace Park in Villa Park for a
memorial in Bowen's memory.