Virginia's memorial for fallen highway workers

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It sits on a low bluff about two-thirds of the way down Afton Mounting driving east on I-64 at milepost 102: a stone memorial flanked by two flagstaffs that bears silent witness to 132 Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) highway workers who lost their lives on the job between 1928 and 2012 (with, sadly, more to be added soon from 2013).

Every year during Work Zone Awareness Week, the agency holds a vigil to honor those workers – all of whom died as the result of work zone crashes – at this site, which is a place build, VDOT says, where family members, friends and colleagues can reflect on their loss and where the traveling public can become more aware of sacrifices made by state highway transportation workers.

[To view more photos of the memorial, click here.]

The word “sacrifice” may seem trite to some, but to me, I think it’s more than appropriate. I’ve visited this memorial several times – pulling off the highway for a few minutes to contemplate in its quiet granite prescience once again how much of our modern-day life we take for granted; especially the people who make traveling across this great nation of ours seem all too easy.

I’ve crisscrossed big swaths of our country several times by vehicle and everywhere one goes, you see the familiar orange cones blocking out work zones, with workers arrayed in hard hats and safety vests performing any number of road repairs in often tough conditions.

Road repairs conducted during a brutally hot Texas summer or frigid Minnesota winter can be truly bestial on man and machine alike, yet often all of us drivers do is complain about the delays their work places upon our daily lives.

So at least for this week, remember the highway worker and how their labors enable us to get from one place to another often without a second thought – connecting our homes to the grocery store, the movie theater, homes of grandparents and other relatives, amusement parks, and many other locales both near and far.

Those wide open roads are a blessing both in terms of personal travel as well as for the shipment of goods that keeps this nation’s economy humming.

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