More than 10 years ago, the life of Mike and Barbara Nord changed forever when a drunken driver killed their 14-year-old son, Reece Nord, as he rode his bike along Montaño Road.
The former Cibola High School student would have been 25 last Monday.
The Nord family, along with the Duke City Wheelmen Foundation, attended a ceremony Monday to mark not only his birthday but to witness the installation of a ghost bike, a permanent memorial at the site where Nord died on Sept. 2, 2002. Ghost bikes are painted white and can be seen along various roads in Albuquerque, marking places where bikers have been killed.
Jennifer Buntz, president of the Duke City Wheelmen, said the bikes are descansos (roadside memorials), so they are legally protected and cannot be removed. The Wheelmen are responsible for installing the bikes.
Mike Nord said the couple still think about their son every day.
“It’s hard to believe 10 years have gone by,” he said. “It’s a shame it takes this type of monument to make people aware of the dangers of drinking and driving.”
Justin Mishall, driver of the vehicle that hit Nord, was convicted in 2005 of vehicular homicide while under the influence of alcohol, reckless driving, driving while intoxicated at or above .08 percent, open container and an alternate count of driving while under the influence.
According to police records and witnesses in the car, Mishall had consumed seven beers, was drinking another beer and talking on his cell phone when he hit Nord. He was given a five-year jail sentence.
But there was no talk of Mishall on Monday afternoon as about 50 family members and friends gathered on the side of Montaño near Taylor Ranch Road to remember a boy who smiled a lot, always ate his dessert first and played bass in the school’s orchestra.
It was an emotional day for the Nords, including his mom, who spent most of the 45-minute event wiping tears. But not all were from sadness. The arrival of Reece’s childhood friend, Tim Wesselman, now a young man, brought a fresh round of tears and a smile to her face. Wesselman and Reece Nord had been friends since the two were small boys.
“It was important for me to be here today,” he said. “I remember most his happy attitude and constant smile.”
The family did not have a prepared speech but greeted all who arrived, some with brief hugs, others with a long embrace and some with surprise and gratitude that they made the event. The family and friends placed flowers on the bike and in its spokes to mark the moment.
Buntz said the ghost bike was not initially the family’s idea. She said the Wheelmen had received several emails requesting it, so her group contacted the family and asked their permission. She said the family agreed, knowing the bike would be a memorial for their son while also raising awareness about DWI.
“With the holiday season upon us, it’s easy to have an extra beverage,” Buntz said. “But people need to think twice about that.”
— This article appeared on page 20 of the Albuquerque Journal