Quanisha Ball: Living plan-by-plan

Everyone around her saw it: Quanisha Ball was coming into her own.


She accomplished this one careful plan at a time. Once she graduated high school, Quanisha, the oldest of five siblings raised by a single mom in McKeesport, PA, worked two jobs. That’s where the plans began: Moving out of her mother’s place. Carefully saving her money. Then came the big plan: a move to Atlanta. “And I never worried about it,” says her mother, Courtney Thompkins, “because I knew she would never put herself in harm’s way. That’s the kind of person she was. Quanisha was very careful.”

She chose North Decatur as her home, having concluded from research that it was a safe community. On her own for the first time, she worked as a receptionist at Emory’s Winship Cancer Institute, where “she bloomed.” She emerged from her shell to become a friendly, reassuring face to patients at Winship, a place where her colleagues came to love the hardworking, by-the-book Quanisha, whom they affectionately called “Q.”

She had more plans. She had just gotten her passport to travel internationally, she was saving to buy a home of her own, and her roommate was teaching her to drive. 

But these things would never happen. Early the morning of November 17, 2022, as Quanisha Ball was walking to catch the shuttle to work, she crossed Scott Boulevard’s seven lanes of traffic at the intersection with Blackmon Drive and a driver struck and killed her. (Nearly a year later, another pedestrian would be struck in the same spot.)


Scott Boulevard @ Blackmon Drive: Google Maps streetview December 2022

At the site of the crash, Scott Boulevard is distinguished by six lanes of fast-moving traffic and proliferating residential developments. Neither signs nor lights warn drivers of the narrow blink-and-you'll-miss-it crosswalk at the crest of the hill where Blackmon Drive intersects. With this combination of factors, street improvements for those getting around by foot or wheelchair could mean the difference between safety and loss of life. Clearly-marked crosswalks, pedestrian refuge islands, and measures to reduce speeding could make getting around on foot safer while alerting drivers to the presence of pedestrians. 

But none of that was in place where Quanisha Ball was struck and killed. As with many pedestrian deaths, police decided it was Quanisha who was at fault for her own death, saying she crossed outside the crosswalk, despite having only talked about the incident with the driver who struck her. People who know her well question that. She would never have stepped outside the crosswalk, they say. Not Q.



Photo taken during memorial event for Quanisha 

Courtney Thompkins wants to put a marker where her daughter died. It could never encompass all she was — how she had loved biking and walking with her mom on the scenic trails outside Pittsburgh. Her sly sense of humor — how she could make you laugh out loud with some quiet remark. Or how she was the easiest to shop for at Christmas since she always just wanted books — mostly thrillers. How she adored Rihanna. No, it would show none of that. “But it would be so people could see. Where someone can stop for maybe a moment and say, ‘Okay. We have to be careful. Someone beautiful lost her life here.’”