Members of a Fairfax County family yesterday gathered in a military chapel to mourn the loss of a daughter they mistakenly believed had survived a Sunday morning car accident that killed four people.
In a simple ceremony at Fort Myer, Alfred and Pearl Klingebiel, along with about 250 friends and relatives, memorialized their daughter, 18-year-old Alana Klingebiel. For 2 1/2 days the family, along with police and hospital officials, thought she had survived the two-car accident in Annandale that Fairfax police described as the county's worst in three years.
It was not until Tuesday afternoon, when the woman mistaken for Klingebiel regained consciousness in Fairfax Hospital, that officials discovered what they called the "tragic mistake."
"Our emotions have been like an internal tornado in a whirlwind," the Rev. Eugene Foreman told the mourners. "Our hearts have bled on the inside because of misunderstandings. In all of my ministry, we have encountered many strange events. But never in a bizarre twist of events such as this."
A Navy honor guard strode in slow, measured steps down the chapel aisle, placing Alana Klingebiel's remains beside a single red rose on a tiny platform at the foot of the chancel. Because of the error, another family, believing their daughter dead, had had the body cremated three hours before the mistake was discovered.
As a guitarist closed his eyes and sang the popular ballad "All We Are Is Dust in the Wind," the Klingebiels wept.
Alana Klingebiel, a 1980 graduate of Falls Church High School, had recently received a license in cosmetology and was living with her family and working at a local restaurant, "waiting for a job to come up," a family friend said.
The night of the accident, she joined her closest friend, 17-year-old Deborah Rogers, who also was killed in the crash, to attend a party in Annandale. Roger's parents joined a long procession of cars that wound through the leaf-strewn Arlington Cemetery to the vault.
There the honor guardsman placed the small brass box containing Alana Klingebiel's ashes on a tiny pedestal. Mourners clung to one another in tearful embraces.
Diane Rogers, who buried her daughter Tuesday, clasped the hand of her divorced husband and cried. Alana Klingebiel had been helping Deborah Rogers study each night for her high school equivalency exam, Rogers said. "Alana was a sweet, lovable girl."