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Kids don't ride there anymore.

Byline: Clive McFarlane

COLUMN: CLIVE MCFARLANE

The bleachers on the Acton Street side of Mulcahy Field are relatively free of graffiti, except for one bench in the aluminum bleachers emblazoned with the name "Jovanni" and the initials "R.I.P."

It is someone's memorial to Jovanni Melendez, the 10-year-old boy who was hit and killed by a pickup when he rode his bike from the Mulcahy Field parking lot onto Acton Street earlier this month.

In time, the sentiments on the bleachers might be written over or fade away.

So, too, the makeshift memorial of stuffed animals, candles and posters erected at the spot where Jovanni fell on Acton Street will one day disappear.

The roadside memorial was already showing signs of deterioration yesterday. The vase holding one candle was broken and in the street. An orange poster holding messages with "love you" "miss you" and "will always remember you" was folding in on itself and the words and the names of the people who had written them were streaked and blurred from the rain and sun.

Some residents are asking for a more permanent memorial to Jovanni's passing, such as the city doing more to prevent similar fatalities.

"I saw everything," a woman, standing on the stoop of her house on Acton Street, told me yesterday.

"I saw him coming down the ramp from the park, I saw the truck coming, and I saw the .....

She paused as her 8-year-old son joined her outside.

"Everybody is upset about this. For years, we have been telling them that this could happen."

Michael Robinson, in front of whose house the memorial sits, was one of the first on the scene after the accident.

"At the time, I thought I felt a small pulse, but there was so much blood coming out, and when you see a person losing that much blood, you know it can't be good," he said.

"A lot of people tried to help, I kept wiping the blood from his face, but it just kept coming."

Residents, he said, have taken up a petition to have the city put up warning signs on Acton Street signaling the presence of the playground. At the moment, there are no signs on Acton Street in either direction approaching the entrance to the field.

The only sign notifying motorists of the presence of the playground and telling them to slow down to 30 miles an hour faces the section of Arthur Street that is a one-way off Acton Street. It cannot be seen while driving along Acton Street and serves no purpose to drivers on Arthur Street, even if they could see it in their rearview mirror.

Residents would also like to see crosswalks on either side of the field's entrance, Mr. Robinson said.

Some will suggest that there is much parents themselves can do to help their kids stay safe - making sure they wear helmets and obey traffic signs, for example.

It was early afternoon when I visited Mulcahy Field yesterday. Fenced in, with its scoreboard showing no balls, no strikes and no outs, the field looks lonely and regretful, like a postcard for dreams deferred or for a life not lived.

"Donde estan los ninos del verano?" I wondered.

Where are the children of summer? Is it now a requirement that a child must have a uniform and be a member of a league to throw, catch and hit a baseball?

A cool, intermittent summer breeze playfully rustled the leaves of the trees on the fringe of the field bleachers, and I wondered if the summer wind had visited the lonely field on that tragic day, and that, sensing a kindred, unrestrained spirit in the boy, it had playfully rode alongside Jovanni as he broke in his new bike.

Surely, this is what will comfort those who knew and loved Jovanni; that his spirit still rides the wind and that they will recognize it whenever it touches them in some familiar way.

"I haven't seen any kids riding their bikes over here anymore," Mr. Robinson's wife, Michelle, said.

I hope that, too, will fade, because far too many kids already don't play anymore.

Contact Clive McFarlane via e-mail at cmcfarlane@telegram.com
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Aug 12, 2009
Words:702
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