Community rallies around family of Ashburn mother who was killed while running

It might be the frighteningly familiar elements that drew so much attention, the banal details that could make it anyone’s story: a typical weekday morning, a suburban intersection, one woman jogging, another driving. And then, from these ordinary beginnings of a day, an accident that ended a life.

“I didn’t know Jaime, but I pass through that intersection. . . . I know I’ve seen her running,” one person wrote on a memorial fundraising Web site for Jaime Rowley, 31, a single mother from Ashburn. “My prayers go out to her children and to all who knew her.”

Another visitor to the site wrote, “I also go through this intersection every day on the way to and from work. So devastating to know someone lost their life there doing something they loved.”

The accident happened about 6:45 a.m. March 12. Rowley was jogging along Waxpool Road, near Claiborne Parkway in Ashburn, when she was struck at the intersection by a 2009 Nissan SUV. The driver, 61, immediately stopped, police said, and began administering CPR to Rowley, until authorities arrived and took over. Rowley was taken to Inova Loudoun Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Alcohol was not a factor in the crash, authorities said last week; an investigation was ongoing. A spokesman for the Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office said there was no certain timeline for when a decision would be made about possible charges against the driver.

For Rowley’s family and friends, one seemingly impossible thing was followed by another: As quickly as a vivid presence was lost, thousands of others emerged to mourn her absence and to rally around the two girls — Rowley’s younger daughter is 12, and the other turns 16 next month — who were left behind.

“I don’t even know how to describe it,” said Maura Pratt, one of Rowley’s best friends and a spokeswoman for the family. “It’s breathtaking, the amount of people who have come out and shown their support.”

Within days of the accident, a light pole near the scene of the crash was quickly encircled by pairs of running shoes, purple ribbons and hand-lettered signs. Runners — in Ashburn, in the Bahamas, in Paris and in New Zealand — hatched plans to jog in Rowley’s honor, with more than 4,000 people participating in memorial runs the morning of March 15. Rowley’s friends launched a Web site to raise money for her daughters, quickly resulting in tens of thousands of dollars in donations. As of Tuesday, it had raised more than $99,000. The money will be set aside to pay for the girls’ college education.

The cause earned support on Twitter from Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, as well as local businesses, such as Paisano’s Pizza in Ashburn, which is donating 50 percent of all of this past Wednesday’s proceeds to Rowley’s family.

Pratt said she was awed by the people who have shown such compassion and support, especially those who didn’t even know Rowley.

It isn’t easy to convey the depth of a loss so new that it still feels surreal, Pratt said, but she wanted everyone to know what her best friend was like.

“I want people to know who she was, who they’re running for, who they’re supporting,” Pratt said, speaking haltingly through tears. “She was one of the most amazing people. She was always happy. She would bend over backward for anyone. She was just a selfless, amazing, beautiful person.”

Rowley, who divorced her daughters’ father years ago, was a Buffalo native and a diehard Bills fan, Pratt said. Their families went camping together and traveled to Florida and to the Outer Banks for vacations.

“And Jaime would kill me if I didn’t say that she is an extreme country music fan,” Pratt said. “We would go to concerts all the time. . . . She had just gone to one at the end of February.”

Frank Watson, another close family friend who works with Rowley’s brother-in-law, said he launched the memorial fundraising Web site for Rowley’s daughters to help offer financial stability after the tragedy.

“I think the hardest thing to think about is what’s going to happen with the kids. One is in high school, one is in middle school,” Watson said. “What we’re going to do with this money is put it into an educational trust that only the kids have access to, and they can use it for college.”

Pratt said the families in Rowley’s close circle of friends are focused on taking care of the girls left behind. The girls are staying with Rowley’s mother at their home in the Broadlands community, Pratt said, and their aunt and uncle also live nearby.

“Anything they need, we are going to give them all of the support and love that we can and take them in as ours,” Pratt said. “I know it’s a cliche, but it’s going to take a village to raise these girls. We’re going to do it, and we’re going to do it the way that Jaime would have wanted it done.”

The memorial Web site is www.jaimerowley.com. Information is available at www.facebook.com/
runforjaime
.

Caitlin Gibson covers Loudoun County for The Washington Post.
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