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In Austin, Texas, cyclists gather to honor Moriah Wilson

VeloNews contributor and Austin local Ian Dille reports from a community ravaged by gun violence.

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“The violence that took the life of Mo was not OK, and we are not OK,” said Cinthia Pedraza, a member of the Austin cycling community who helped organize a memorial for Moriah Wilson.

Pedraza stood on the stone steps of the Federal Court House on Sunday afternoon, overlooking a crowd of roughly a hundred people — Austin cyclists and a few news cameras. We’d gathered in nearly 100-degree heat in Republic Square Park in downtown Austin.

Casual hellos and ‘how are you’s?’ met mostly subdued responses. We soon simply greeted each other, ‘it’s nice to see you.’

Related: Vermont’s Kingdom Trails Association pays tribute to Mo Wilson

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Riders roll out of Republic Square Park in Austin. (Photo: Ian Dille)

A conversation about congregating had begun not long after Moriah Wilson’s death. An event central to the wider Austin cycling scene, the weekly Driveway Series bike race, had been indefinitely postponed in 2022. Community events had since become infrequent and more dispersed across specific disciplines.

“Things were very quiet,” said Corey Bounds, who also helped organize the memorial and ride. “We wondered, is everyone dealing with this alone?”

We’d gathered to remember Moriah’s life and her passion for riding bikes, something most of us could relate to. To try and process a tragedy that’s left us and our friends in pain. To wonder, will this ever end?

Six days earlier, on Monday morning, two people had been shot and seriously injured near where we had gathered in Republic Square Park. A few hours after that incident, a couple hundred miles away in Uvalde, Texas, one of the deadliest school shootings in our nation’s history occurred. On the same day Moriah Wilson was murdered in East Austin, another fatal shooting had occurred at an apartment complex just a few miles away.

No, we are not OK.

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Laura Carbonneau, one of the ride’s organizers, reads a statement from Wilson’s family. (Photo: Ian Dille)

One of the event’s organizers, Laura Carbonneau told me, “cycling is supposed to be fun and full of joy. It’s supposed to help us deal with all the other crap in the world.” Her eyes filled
with tears. “Now, violence is encroaching on our world. That’s what makes this even harder.”

Related: Gravel Locos: A race, a ride, a remembrance

We stood in a silent semi-circle as Laura offered a remembrance of Moriah Wilson—how she’d recently left her job to pursue cycling full time—and read a statement from her family. Then we got on our bikes and rode to Deep Eddy Pool, the oldest swimming pool in Texas.

Riding down West 6th Street, I met Valerie Ruiz, who organizes local rides and events for a wide array of people who like bikes. I asked Valerie what motivated her to attend.

“To stop hate in our community,” she said. “Especially a community as beautiful as this one.”

I explained to Valerie that at first I’d felt uncomfortable about riding to Deep Eddy, the same place Moriah Wilson had swam on the night of her death. But on this exceptionally hot day, nothing sounded better than a dip in the pool’s cool, spring fed water, alongside good friends. Perhaps violence and tragedy shouldn’t take that joy away. Valerie nodded.

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The view from Deep Eddy pool (Photo: Ian Dille)

Reporters, one from Court TV, moved through the crowd gathered at Deep Eddy, politely asking members of the Austin cycling community to offer comment. Most politely declined.

Many people went swimming. Others stood or sat in the shade and simply talked.

As I rode home, I thought about what I would write about my community’s memorial of Moriah Wilson. And I thought about one of the speakers, Caitlin Milam, who had read a James Baldwin poem, “For Nothing is Fixed.” As I pedaled, the poem’s final stanza stuck with me:

“The moment we cease to hold each other,
the moment we break faith with one another,
the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.”