"At most accidents you hear moaning, crying, screaming. This one was silent. The silence of death is just horrifying. It really was. The silence was-deafening, really. The stillness of the whole thing was frightening. Everywhere I looked, it seemed, there was a body."
Anne Arundel County Police Sgt. Richard D. Smith was describing the scene that greeted him Monday night as he turned a corner on Patuxent Road near Crofton and arrived at the spot where a compact pickup truck carrying 12 teen-agers had slammed into a tree.
Within eight hours of the 9:30 p.m. crash, eight of the teen-agers were dead, and the remaining four were hospitalized. Three of these remained in serious condition tonight.
The fourth, Alan Cole of Baltimore, who was driving the truck, was released after being treated for minor injuries.
The teen-agers, all but Cole the children of servicemen stationed at Fort Meade, had been on their way to a party when the accident occurred.
"It was like, it's sort of a drag here tonight so let's go on down to the Pond," said Shemus McShane, a 15-year-old freshman at Fort Meade Senior High School.
McShane had spent most of the evening with the 12 teen-agers involved in the accident, as they drifted back and forth from the local bowling alley to friends' houses.
About 9 o'clock, the group decided to leave the bowling alley and drive to an area in Patuxent River Park known as the Pond where, they heard, some of their friends were having an impromptu party, McShane said.
"We all got together at the bowling alley at about 6:30," McShane said. "That's what we do most nights. That's the only place on the base you can really go and do anything at night.
"We stayed there for a while. Then we drove around to some frind's houses. Yeah, sure we were drinking, smoking too.
"Then we came back to the alley, and everybody decided to go down to the Pond and see what was going on down there."
McShane said at the point he looked at his watch. "It was 10 to 9, and I had to be home at 9," he said. "So I went with them to McDonald's real quick, then went home."
As McShane went home, the 12 remaining teen-agers piled into Alan Cole's 1978 Ford Courier compact pickup truck, three in the cab with Cole, eight in the open rear bed.
Cole drove out of Fort Meade and eventually onto Patuxent Road. At about 9:30 p.m., according to police, he swung the truck around to steep downhill curve, lost control, went off the road, glanced off two trees and hit a third head-on. The truck over-turned, and its passengers were flung as much as 15 feet away.
Up ahead, four more Fort Meade teen-agers drove on towards the park, unaware of the disaster behind them.When their friends failed to arrive they returned to the scene and found police already there, picking through the wreckage.
"When the other kids got on the scene, you should have seen their faces," Smith said. "They didn't believe it. It was like they were at a horror show."
Killed in the crash were Paul Morenz, 16, Robert Weaver 18, and his sister, Tammera, 16; Denise DeAoun, 15, and her brother Barry, 14; Cynthia Bray, 18; Marilyn Harris, 14; and Clark Kusaj, 14, all of Fort Meade.
Injured in the crash were Tina Neal, 15, Eugene Renaud, 15, and Kenneth Sassaman, 16, all of Fort Meade; and Cole, 18, of Baltimore.
Paul Morenz, one of those pronounced dead on the scene, wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, Chief Petty Officer Melvin Morenz, a 21-year-veteran of the Navy.
"All along he said he wanted to enlist in the Navy when he graduated," Morenz said this afternoon, sitting in the tiny kitchen of his home of the base with his wife Jennifer and two friends. "He was going to graduate early and enlist.
"He was very ambitious, always working and saving his money. He was always working [at E.I. Kane's, a moving company in Washington]. He could never sit still."
Mrs. Morenz, her eyes red and puffy from crying, said she didn't worry when her son failed to come home by midnight, "because I figured he was working. I never worried about anything like this happening, it never crossed my mind. Paul was a typical teen-ager, full of life . . ." her voice trailed off.
"I worried," Morenz said. "Any time kids are out and driving around you worry. I guess it's every teen-age parent's nightmare."
The home of Robert and Lynne Weaver was one of two where the nightmare was doubled by the loss of two children.
The Weavers said their daughter, Tammera, left for a disco dancing lesson about 7 p.m. and was expected home at about 9.
"Somewhere at about 1:30 or 2 the father of my daughter's girl friend called us and said they got notified that their daughter was in hospital and we knew my daughter had been with her so we called the Army hospital to see if there was any word on ours.
"That's when they told us that both our kids were down at North Arundel [hospital]. At the time they just said they were in serious condition. When we got down there we found out that they were DOA.
"I don't think it's quite registered yet. I know that they're gone, but, you know it's one of those things. It's like a bad dream."
At Meade High School, where five of the dead victims were students and two, Cole and Cynthia Bray, were 1978 graduates, students and teachers walked the halls in an apparent state of shock, often stopping to ask who was dead and who was alive.
"No one wants to talk about it, students or teachers," said principal Ray Rifenberg. "Everyone is in a state of shock. A lot of students asked to go home and we let them. When you take eight lives like this, so quickly, it's just unbelievable. I just can't visualize that many bodies."
Disbelief was the reaction of most students at the three-year-old, 2,200- student school.
"Lots of people were always riding around in Alan's truck," said Gary Fonterot, a 15-year-old sophomore. "It was like any other night I guess, go to the bowling alley, then maybe go to the Pond."
Students said it was not unusual for a group like the one in the accident, with teen-agers ranging in age from 14 to 18, to be together.
"People got together like that all the time," said Bev Wison, a senior. "We're a pretty tight-knit school. In fact very often kids from Macarthur [the local junior high school] and kids from here got together."
McShane, they youth who left the group just before the crash, was glad to be alive, but deeply disturbed by the accident. "I'm happy I wasn't there because if I had I would probably be dead," he said.
"When the police came to my house it didn't seem real.I mean it was dark out and I thought I was dreaming or something. My stomach got all twisted and I felt kind of sick."
Cole, the driver, told Anne Arundel County police that as he came around the curve near the crash site, a car coming in the opposite direction crossed the center lane and he had to swerve to avoid it and lost control.
Cole also told police that he had been drinking earlier, according to Capt. Robert Russell. Cole agreed to take a blood-alcohol test, the results of which have not yet been returned to police.
Fort Meade Senior High will be closed Thursday for a memorial service in honor of the dead students and former students.
"All we can do now is try to think of all the good times we had with Paul," Jennifer Morenz said. "That's what we've got left now."
Perhaps Cynthia Bray's yearbook summed up the disaster for the families. Written on the page which included her picture was the quotation, "We may never pass this way again . . . life, so they say, is but a game and they let it slip away . . ." CAPTION: Picture, Students Barry Sharpe and Yvonne Cavanaugh mourn the death of eight friends. UPI