Metrorail Crash Victim Dennis Hawkins Is Mourned in Washington, D.C.

Two Red Line Metrorail trains crashed June 22, 2009 between the Fort Totten and Takoma Park stations, killing nine, including one train operator.
By Jonathan Mummolo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 1, 2009

There was the damaged Bible in which he had bookmarked a prophetic passage, and his spotless white handkerchief found amid the wreckage. There was the striking absence of any markings on his face or hands, despite the violence of the train crash that killed him.

To the loved ones of Dennis Hawkins -- more than 1,000 of whom attended his funeral yesterday -- they were signs that the longtime educator and devout Christian had fulfilled his life's pursuit: to be with God.

"This is the kind of worship Dennis Hawkins enjoyed," the Rev. A. Michael Black, pastor of Westwood Baptist Church in Richmond, said to raucous applause and cries of "Hallelujah!" and "Praise the lord!" from the packed seats of Bethesda Baptist Church in Ivy City.

Black crossed his arms and jumped up and down, mimicking the fervor Hawkins displayed during services.

"God is worthy to be praised, for he gave us Dennis Hawkins for 64 years!" Black said.

Hawkins, 64, of Northeast Washington, was among the nine people killed in last week's Red Line train crash, the deadliest in Metro's 33-year history. Hawkins, an all-around aide at Whittier Education Center in Northwest, was on his way to teach vacation Bible school at Bethesda when he was killed.

He was remembered as a relentless source of joy and support with an infectious smile. Although his calendar was always booked, he was never too busy to listen. He organized bus trips for fellow congregants to other states, tended to the myriad needs of the public school where he worked and called friends often to pray or simply ask how they were doing.

Hawkins, who was called "Hawk" by friends, had no children of his own, but was so beloved by the ones at Whittier that it wasn't uncommon for students to run up to him on the street, teachers said.

"Even for something as simple as a haircut," Hawkins was there to help, said Whittier's assistant principal, Samuel Johnson Jr., who recalled Hawkins making an appointment for him at a barbershop when he mentioned that he was looking for a new barber.

"That was my buddy," Johnson said.

Hawkins's brother, Kenneth, said he believes that Hawkins was reading his black, leather-bound Bible at the time of the crash and that the book -- now covered with nicks and dings -- afforded him protection. Hawkins said the Bible was bookmarked to Philippians, which states that "to live is Christ and to die is gain."

"It shielded him. . . . I think the angels were there," Kenneth Hawkins said after a Monday night memorial service at Bethesda. "He was on his way to the house of the Lord, and that's where he is now."

Dennis Hawkins, a District native, attended public schools and received a bachelor's degree from Western Michigan University and a master's degree from the University of the District of Columbia. He was the oldest of eight siblings, six of whom survive.

Kenneth Hawkins said that since the crash, he has been "inundated" with calls from people saying how much his brother meant to them.

"I knew it was going to be like this," said Kenneth Hawkins, pointing to the filled church yesterday, "because he touched so many people and lives every day."

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