A month before the fiery car crash in which she would lose her 2-year-old son and fetus, Elizabeth Marchman wrote adoringly about her children in a community newspaper.
"What a predicament I'm in! My children are Logan -- 13, Zak -- 21/2, and Emma who is due in September. They all have a lot of spirit and spunk, even the little girl who has yet to make her appearance," Marchman wrote. "I can tell by the way she kicks day and night that she is going to give her older brothers a run for their money."
The Fairfax County woman's motherly predictions won't come true. She lost Zak and her fetus in a fiery four-vehicle crash on Interstate 66 July 20. After being rear-ended by a pickup truck, her car burst into flames. She lies in a hospital bed in critical but stable condition at Washington Hospital Center's burn unit, said Randy Marchman, her husband.
On Friday, friends, neighbors and the two retired firefighters who saved her life by pulling her out of the car came together to donate blood for Marchman, 33.
"It's about the worst thing that can happen to you," said Melanie Florence, a neighbor. "And that's why all of these people are here. They understand that."
An outpouring of community support was evident as more than 130 people streamed into the Chantilly High School cafeteria to give blood. Many waited two hours, while others went to another location to donate.
The blood donated yesterday will be used as credit at the hospital for Marchman, who has used more than 60 units of blood, said Janine Browning, a neighbor and one of the drive's organizers.
"I'm very appreciative for the support of the community," Randy Marchman said yesterday. He declined to comment further. Neighbors said they have established a fund for the family to help the Marchmans cover medical expenses and burial costs for their son and lost fetus.
"This community spirit is an example of who she is," said Anna Nurmi, a neighbor who worked with Marchman on the Greenbriar Flyer, a community newspaper in Chantilly.
Nurmi, the editor in chief, said Marchman, who was about to take over that post, especially loved writing about her children.
"She would write about how life was when she was little and how life is now," Nurmi said.
Retired Fairfax County firefighters Dan Bickham, 58, and Dallas Slemp, 47, the two men who saved Marchman's life, also came to give blood. They recounted the morning when they came upon the accident. As they drove to their jobs at an emergency equipment company, they saw smoke billowing from a burning Geo on the other side of the highway.
There was no moment of hesitation, both men recalled.
As other drivers seemed to be paralyzed with shock, they jumped the four-foot median and approached the car. Through the flames, they tried to get to the little boy in the safety seat. They couldn't. They then reached for his mother, Elizabeth Marchman, who was seven months pregnant, and pulled her out of the car.
"We knew we did not have much time. If something had not been done, she would have perished," Slemp said. His shoulders slumped slightly as he said, "There was no hope for the child."
Slemp suffered first-degree burns on his fingers, and Bickham incurred first- and second-degree burns on his forehead, the side of his face and his forearms.
He came yesterday, he said, because "we all have children."
"Our hearts go out to them," he said. "That emotional wound will never heal -- for all of us."
The rear-end collision of the truck with the car's fuel tank was a contributing factor to the fire, said Dan Schmidt, spokesman for the Fairfax County fire department. He said fire investigators have not determined what ignited the blaze.
The driver of the pickup, Matthew R. Cable, 21, was cited with reckless driving, police said. Virginia State Police have asked the National Transportation Safety Board to investigate the gas tank's role, Schmidt said.