Mariella Spriggs was stuck in snowbound traffic on the 14th Street bridge when the 737 plunged out of the sky, crushing her brown Mustang.
A year later, that freakish, million-to-one collision still reverberates through the Spriggs family. Mariella was only 26, engaged to be married, and had just started a new job running a word processor in McLean.
"If she had been in the plane, it would have been easier," says her sister-in-law, Bette Spriggs. "It wasn't an unusual trip. It snows, you go home. But to be in a car and get hit by a plane, to see it in print on the death certificate--hit by a plane--is horrible. We haven't come to grips with Mariella's death. It's like a light's gone out of our lives."
As hard as her death was on him, one of Mariella's brothers says it was harder on her fiance, William Shipman. "He didn't eat and didn't talk for a week," says Walter Spriggs, a Boston policeman. "He was worse off than the family was. She was the best thing that had ever happened to him."
For Mariella's mother, Ruth Spriggs, the death of her only daughter was especially devastating because her youngest son, Gerald, had been killed in a car accident in Georgia a decade earlier. Mariella was the main reason Ruth looked forward to moving back to Washington when she retired from her job in Boston.
"It's a very deep hurt for my sister," says Erma Johnson, who, like her sister, found pictures of Mariella too painful to contemplate. "Every day she has a quiet moment. She lost a lot of weight. She's just beginning to be able to eat a little now. She's a great thinker now. She sort of goes off into her thoughts."
The Spriggses have relied on their faith to get them through the year. The family plans to gather in Washington for the weekend of the anniversary. At Ruth's request, a mass will be said for Mariella at St. Anthony's Catholic Church.