Three makeshift white crosses stand steady against the whipping winds generated by traffic along Southwestern Boulevard, bearing the hand-lettered final farewells of teenagers who lost their friends on that stretch of road last week.
A few inches from the cross bearing Daryl L. Thompson's name waves a small Marine Corps flag, a reminder of the future he had planned. A small card reads: "Daryl, Hope you like roses. I miss you so much, I'm so upset. We all are. You didn't deserve to die. I hope it's better where you are. I love you. Kristen."
Nearby hangs a lacrosse jersey from the Hamburg Knights, the team John P. "Jack" Gallivan and Daniel E. Otremba played on. On the front, messages from the Zeis family: "May there be lacrosse in heaven!" and "Lord take care of these boys."
CDs of Stevie Nicks and the Dave Matthews Band hang in the tree branches behind the memorial. On the ground, carnations and roses carpet the grass. The flames of votive candles somehow burn steadily against the roar of traffic, lighting the makeshift memorial; teddy bears, balloons and photographs frame the crosses. Lacrosse equipment is scattered throughout the area, never to be used again.
Teens and adults stop throughout the day and night, pulling off the road to pay their silent respects, offer prayers for the dead. In pairs and alone, those left behind come here to light a candle, to leave a photograph or a note -- to say goodbye.
Tuesday night, a young man quietly cleared away small pieces of car debris that remained on the road, hauling it into the cluster of trees. Once he finished, his father looked on as he straightened the pictures and cards beneath the crosses. After a few moments of silent reflection, the two got into their van and drove off, just as a sports car with two middle-aged adults arrived to survey the memorial -- another in a constant flow of mourners.
As the survivors grieve, elected officials are seeking changes on the road to prevent another tragedy, and investigators are coming closer to determining what caused the accident.
State Sen. Dale M. Volker, R-Depew, and Hamburg town officials have been lobbying the state Department of Transportation for weeks to make Route 20, Southwestern Boulevard, safer. Two months ago, a teenage girl died after she was hit by a car. Two weeks ago, a young man was seriously injured after he was hit by a car while riding his bicycle. And last week, the three Frontier High School teens perished.
The state plans to create a center-turn lane on the road over the next several years, but officials are urging some temporary solution in the meantime.
"It's a very good time to review the situation and see if there is something that could be done to avoid another situation," Volker said.
The state DOT began a review of Southwestern Boulevard a few weeks ago, said Timothy D. Roach, assistant traffic and safety engineer. The state is collecting data, including accident statistics and counts at intersections of cars making turns each day at particular places.
The DOT expects to have the data collected and analyzed by the end of this year, Roach said.
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