Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Tanya Connolly

September 17th, 2012 Tanya Connolly was killed riding her bicycle at the intersection of West Broadway & A-Street in South Boston.  Her brother Karl would like to share his painful story of loss & absence.

Tanya Connolly

Dear Planet Southie Bikes,

Over seven months have passed, and it’s still so hard for me to talk about Tanya in an abstract way. Writing this letter only reinforces the fact that she is no longer with us.

Tanya and I were very close. We were 14 months apart in age. Together, we grew up in Ireland and moved to Boston in the early 1990s. As early adults we lived close to Dublin; a city full of life and energy, and later Tanya lived in London England for a period before moving to Boston. Tanya was a lively and energetic person; one who broke down barriers, treated everyone with respect, and would enter a place a stranger but leave with a whole new circle of friends. When people die, they are often described as a loving, caring, full of life, etc. etc. In the case of my sister this is not some desired fabrication - it is quite simply the truth.

On Monday September 17th 2012, I was in the car leaving work heading to school when I got a frantic call from my wife who moments before had learned about the crash. I pulled over and got in touch with the police officer who was standing by. He put it simply on the phone when I asked - "Is she dead?" - "Yes" he replied. Those are words you never want to hear. That moment rushed in a sense of complete and utter surrealism. How could someone you've always known, someone you've always loved, and someone you always expected to be there suddenly be gone?

Over the past several years, my career & education consumed my life. I was so close to being done and had envisioned cashing in those countless rain checks for spending time with Tanya. I am so glad that in the weeks before her death she was able to visit me in my home in Westborough were we got to just hang out and enjoy each other’s company. We shared so much that I will never have again. We grew up together, we had the same friends, lived so many of the same experiences, we had our own little codes, ways to communicate with a glance, a smile, or movie quote… We always knew each other’s thoughts for a given situation. That is gone forever.

Tanya's passing continues to haunt me. She is the first close person in my life to have died. In my grief I was suddenly faced with doing the impossible, making those terrible phone calls to my father in Ireland, our only sister in London, and my mother in Florida. I alone had to meet with the police, the priest, the funeral director, the mayor's liaison and try to come to terms with arrangements. People needed to be notified and arrangements of flights and hotels made. The whirlwind of activity needed to be orchestrated, emotions put on hold, and all the time in my final semester I needed to maintain my situation in school in order to graduate. So much to do, but no time to shed a tear. Be strong for everyone, but most important be strong for Tanya. Her friend's circle imploded. The shock was so strong. No last goodbyes were shared. When you are young you think not of death and most certainly not around the corner from your home.

Tanya had really adopted South Boston. Having previously lived in major European cities, she knew to be a careful and responsible person. She could handle herself in an urban environment. Tanya had an American driver’s license for years and yet never had an accident. She was conscience and aware of traffic, and very familiar with the South Boston Traffic landscape. She had just met a new fella and decided that cycling would help her get in great shape. Tanya bought that bike just a few weeks before the crash, but she was no stranger to cycling. I'll never forget the Christmas that Tanya and I both got bikes from Santa. It had snowed in Ireland that year so Tanya and I actually rode around the house! Young people in Ireland in the 80's and 90's never had cars you either walked or biked everywhere. So it was very familiar for her to cycle, she loved it, and felt that South Boston and by the waterfront offered her new areas to spin around.

I caution all cyclists to never take anything for granted. Always assume that driver doesn't care enough about your safety. You never want to leave a devastated family behind. Nothing will fill the void of your absence. I urge you to call those who are close - tell them how happy you are to have them in your life, do your best to never leave a conversation in anger, always appreciate those people, and make sure they know. Because one day you may be floating along happy as can be, and the next be that person on the news with nothing but police cars and do not cross tape between you and your deceased love one.

Stay safe. Thank you on behalf of Tanya and I for advocating for the safety of cyclists.

Karl Connolly


  1. Hi Karl,
    We can't even begin to understand what you're going through, but our thoughts are with you. So sorry...
    Sorin and family

  2. Dear Karl

    Words can't express how I feel reading your letter. I have teas in my eyes.

    We love you and we will miss Tania forever.

  3. Hi Karl,

    I'm so touched by your letter. Tanya was full of life. I met her once at my sister's party, and never forgot her. The many pictures we took together, you would think we had being friends before. Couldn't stop telling my sister how great Tanya was. Thanks for sharing your story, and Tanya will forever be remembered.


  4. Hi Karl,

    I worked with Tanya for 3 years during my time at Digitas. She was always (always) an uplifting light to my day/week/month when I saw her, with a big grin and contagious laugh. I've only just come to know of her passing, and am in as utter of a shock as you most likely still are. Please accept my condolences and reminder that an energy like hers could never be snuffed. She is with you and all of us in spirit - and what a spirit it is.

    All my absolute best,
    Nick G.


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