It’s painful to even think about the scene that unfolded on Commonwealth Avenue during the rush hour commute Thursday morning: a tractor-trailer making a wide turn, a bicyclist pedaling along the designated lane, a collision so loud that a worker could hear it inside a nearby store. A young man is dead, the fifth bicycle fatality in Boston this year.
The crash, for every understandable reason, has fueled an increasingly urgent argument about the safety of our city streets: whether motorists are too aggressive, whether cyclists are too cavalier, whether pedestrians need to take greater care. It’s an important discussion, needed sooner rather than later. But amid the inevitable accusations, please think hard and deep about the young man who died.
His name was Christopher Weigl. He had the earnestness of an Eagle Scout, because he was one. He was also an accomplished clarinet player, an outdoorsman, a quiet young man with a flair for adventure that fed a love of travel. He developed such a passion for photography at Skidmore College that he enrolled at Boston University in September to pursue a graduate degree in photojournalism.
“Just the ideal student: smart, mature, curious, in school for all the right reasons,” said one of his BU professors, Mitchell Zuckoff.
Zuckoff, an author and accomplished former Globe reporter, gives the same assignment to every student on the first day of feature writing class: write your own obituary. Christopher completed his on Sept. 5. It’s an exercise that allows the students to express themselves and the professor to learn about his students. Nobody could ever have imagined it to be real.
Christopher’s was an expansive, fascinating journey that never should have ended when it did. His self-penned obituary is below. It’s included in the hope that every motorist might think about his life and slow down. It’s included in the hope that every cyclist might think of Christopher and tame the urge to rush. It’s included because nobody knew Christopher better than he knew himself.
Lifelong Massachusetts resident and Boston University graduate student Christopher Weigl, 22, passed away September 5 after protracted complications stemming from obituary writing.
Christopher was born in Framingham and lived most of his life in Southborough. An avid outdoorsman, Christopher obtained the rank of Eagle Scout at age 14 and remained an active member of Boy Scout Troop 1 till his 18th birthday.
In addition to scouting, Christopher was an accomplished clarinet player throughout his years of schooling, and played in a variety of ensembles including the Central District Band and Orchestra, MetroWest Youth Symphony Orchestra, and Worcester Youth Symphony Orchestra.
After graduating from Worcester Academy in 2007, Christopher matriculated at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Although eventually deciding upon a bachelor’s in English, photography supplanted music as the central passion of Christopher’s life, and he could often be found shooting campus events for the student paper or the school’s communications department.
By graduation, Christopher had served as Photography Club president as well as photography editor of the Skidmore News. These pursuits were in addition to internships with Panorama Magazine, Emma Dodge Hanson Photography, and KCK Photography, as well as a semester abroad in Florence to take more specialized photography classes.
After graduation, Christopher indulged his love of travel by embarking on a six-week trip through Operation Groundswell, a voluntourism organization, to find a story and do service projects in Cambodia and Thailand. It was on the little Cambodian island of Koh Rong, where he interviewed locals and uncovered a government takeover of the island, that Christopher found a story and cemented his love for photojournalism. The experience in Southeast Asia seeded the first thoughts of graduate school, and after a year of working at Ritz Camera, driving limousines, building a photography business, and freelance reporting for the weekly Community Advocate, Christopher moved to Brighton to attend BU’s photojournalism masters program.
Christopher leaves his parents, Bonnie and Andy Weigl, his brother Dustin, and cat Ivy.
McGrory is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.