“It’s a fantastic turnout, and it’s fitting for a fantastic person such as Matt Trujillo,” said Jennifer Buntz, president of the Duke City Wheelmen and an organizer of the memorial. She choked up as she thanked everyone for coming and introduced Trujillo’s family. While many in attendance had known Trujillo, others simply came in support of the cycling community.
A ghost bike is a bicycle painted completely white, intended to remind drivers and cyclists to be careful on the road. The bicycles are anchored in places where cyclists have been killed and become permanent memorials.
Buntz and other members of the Wheelmen placed the ghost bike at the corner of Washington and Indian School NE, where Trujillo was hit on his way to work. The driver, Memori Hardwick, has been charged with vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of an accident. According to a criminal complaint, she had been “awake for days” from methamphetamine use and was reaching for a cigarette when she ran a red light and crashed into Trujillo. He suffered severe head injuries and died two weeks later.
On Saturday, no one talked about Hardwick or expressed bitterness about Trujillo’s death. The event was focused on celebrating his life and urging other cyclists – and drivers – to be careful.
“To everyone else on a bike, just really be careful,” said Trujillo’s brother, Josh Trujillo. “Just don’t expect anyone’s going to see you, ever. Or stop at a red light or a stop sign.”
The memorial ride, which ended at the ghost bike, began at outdoor retailer REI, where Matt Trujillo had worked for more than 12 years. His manager there, John Provost, was among those in attendance Saturday.
“He’s someone who really lived a life of balance,” Provost said. “He was amazing at work and amazing at playing.”
In addition to cycling, Trujillo also loved to ski and hike.
“Eat, ski, bike, repeat. That was Matt,” said Joe Martz, a close friend and the brother of Trujillo’s fiancée. “He really had a life well lived.”
After Trujillo’s family spoke, supporters took turns placing flowers, ribbons and candles on and around the bike, until nearly every inch of the bike frame was covered.
Buntz said she hopes the ghost bike can serve a dual purpose, both as a safety reminder to drivers, and as a way to keep Trujillo’s memory alive.
“We really don’t want it to get lost in the shuffle that a life was lost,” she said. She said a ghost bike for her close friend Paula Higgins, which stands at Comanche and Pennsylvania NE, has become a place where she now smiles and remembers the rides she took with Higgins.
She also implored the group not to shy away from cycling, despite the dangers.
“Please be safe out there,” she said. “And remember that we bike because we love it. And nothing can take that away.”