The Silhouettes of Seattle

Back in November, I started seeing these 4 foot tall white silhouettes of people at seemingly random spots throughout Seattle. I had no idea what they represented. I kept making a mental note to find out, but I’d always forget by the time I got home. One is attached to a telephone pole down the street from my house, and I pass it every day. Another is a block down from my drawbridge.

These silhouettes have writing on them, but from my car I have always been moving too fast to see what they say. For someone who is as easily distracted as I seem to be these days, this was quite a mystery. Finally the other day when I passed one, I started singing the song “Silhouettes” by the Rays, over and over and over again, until I got home. Then I rushed inside and wrote it down on my “to blog about” list before I did anything else.

According to this article, it seems that there are 212 of these silhouettes posted all over the city, to represent the 240 people killed in traffic here in the past 10 years. They are placed at the very spot where the person died, and therefore 28 of them couldn’t be put up because the location was too dangerous. The City of Seattle is trying to raise awareness of this situation because in future years, the number of pedestrians and automobiles are only bound to increase.

I think it’s fantastic that they are getting creative about these horrible statistics in hopes of reducing them. And according to this article, they held a ceremony for the friends and families of the victims before putting them up, and many people found it quite cleansing. Anything that helps you toward healing is a good thing, in my opinion.

However. I happen to have one friend who is a family member of one of the victims, and he has chosen not to participate in this program because his wounds are too fresh, and his grieving is too personal. His loved one’s silhouette is therefore not nailed to a post somewhere. But I’m sure he gets to see these ghostly forms all over the place, just like I do. And for him they must evoke painful memories.

Now when I see these silhouettes, I have very mixed emotions. We do need solutions. The worst thing about this city is the traffic. But I have to admit that I’m also starting to be creeped out by these daily reminders of lives cut short.

But for all those loved ones out there, regardless of where you are in your grieving process, I am truly sorry for your losses.


A big thanks to StoryCorps for inspiring this blog and my first book.

4 thoughts on “The Silhouettes of Seattle

  1. Seattle Park Lover

    I’m glad you posted about this because there’s one on a busy street I drive on frequently and I just assumed it was some kind of advertisement.

    I like the idea of making the public more aware of tragedy and safety, but I have to say I think it’s rather poorly implemented.Driving past it looks like some kind of slapdash homemade sign for miracle weightloss pills or something. There’s no way to read them unless you want to slam on your breaks and they look far from official.

    Good idea, needs improvement.

  2. You may also have seen “ghost bikes” which are all-white and chained to a post along a street where a bicyclist was struck. Those are not labeled. The white silhouettes are labeled but I agree with Park Lover and your comment that the silhouettes are more understandable to pedestrians than motorists.

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