This is what death sounds like: The roar of a motorcycle whizzing by and a thud hard enough to shake your house like you just experienced a small temblor.
In fact, on Tuesday night while I was working in my home office, I thought that was exactly what had happened. Instead, I learned it was .
Taking a little writing break, I was reading the Twitter feed about the shaker that happened in Southern California. People were talking earthquake weather, which was certainly on my mind.
So there was a disconnect between the loud sound of the motorcycle engine blasting down Murrieta toward the Portola intersection and the sudden jolt that literally shook our house. My husband stumbled out of bed, and came into my office asking what just happened.
And again I pondered whether it had been a slight earthquake. After all, the sound of cars and motorcycles traveling way too fast down Murrieta is a common occurrence. Drivers seem to think that the curvy road is like a slalom racetrack, especially late at night.
But as someone in a family of motorcycle riders — my husband has two that he rides to work in Oakland almost every day — I have to say I didn’t judge the sound to be extremely fast, but certainly over the 35 mph limit. And I constantly hear much faster bikes powering down that street.
So I was surprised when just less than 15 minutes after the shake, we heard the sirens.
I would be wracked with guilt over not jumping up immediately and going back to look over our brick sound wall if it all hadn’t happened so quickly. The thought of the minutes that could have made a difference would have haunted me. But when I saw the body and the mangled mess that just moments earlier had been cruising down the road, I knew it wouldn’t have made a difference.
My first thoughts were for his family — I read later that one of the people walking around after the crash was his brother — and for his friends. I thought of the person now lying lifeless on the asphalt was probably a vibrant guy whose moment of recklessness took him from those who loved him.
Our backyards in this area are not at ground level. The wall at that point holds back solid dirt. It looked like he was going into the right turn lane when he jumped the curb and hit the wall hard enough to knock a hole in the cinder blocks just above the dirt line where the blue street bike hit.
I thought about all the raccoons and possums that frequent that area of my backyard and I wondered if perhaps he had glimpsed something he tried to avoid hitting.
I listened as officers at the scene tried to find skid marks. There were none. The how questions came back with little answers. Too fast, jumped the curb, narrowly missed a small tree, hit the wall, ricocheted into the left turn lane.
And the sight of the man, later identified as 31-year-old Daniel Vanderhoofven of Livermore, and the mashed motorcycle, was made all the more eerie by the lighted memorial just yards away. The tribute is for 17-year-old David Goddard, who died last Nov. 22
It was our wedding anniversary, and after a nice long evening at , we came home, happy. That was before we heard the impact sound around 11 p.m.
And a life was quickly terminated.
Nothing seems to deter drivers from traveling too fast down that stretch of Murrieta. The curves are blind, and people often walk along the sidewalks. Bus stops dot the street. Nocturnal creatures cross it regularly. Yet so many people carelessly rip along the road.
I had hoped that keeping the lighted memorial to young David would serve as a deterrent to those who think that they are invincible, and drive just a little too fast.