The months have gone by since the deadly crash on the Red Line, but unlike pages on a calendar, the memories and the pain have not vanished.
On Saturday, the fourth anniversary of the June 22, 2009, crash that killed nine people and injured dozens, a vigil was held near the site of the crash. Survivors gathered to embrace one another, sing gospel songs, and to mourn and remember.
The crash occurred close to the start of summer, which for many people is a time of carefree enjoyment. But it is not so for Carolyn Jenkins.
“When this time of the year comes, I get a little down,” Jenkins said before the start of the vigil, in the 5700 block of New Hampshire Avenue NE.
Her daughter, Veronica DuBose, was one of the eight passengers killed in the crash, the worst in Metro’s history. The train operator was also killed.
Jenkins helped organize the ceremony, with its oral testimonials.
“We want to keep their memory alive,” she said of her daughter and the others.
Also, she said, she wanted to “let people know there are still things to do.”
After the crash, the National Transportation Safety Board made 34 recommendations to Metro for improvements. Metro’s automatic train control system has been cited as the direct cause. It failed to detect a train that was on the tracks but out of view.
So far, according to the board, Metro has carried out 24 of the recommendations.
A memorial park is planned near the crash site, and Jenkins is expecting to see it.
The lingering, long-term pain caused by the crash could be seen in the eyes of Doneka Clark. She began to tear up as she spoke of LaVonda “Nikki” King, who died in the crash.
“We used to get together as a family, for birthdays, on Sundays,” she recalled. A pause followed. Her eyes glistened with tears.
“We try to keep doing that,” she said.
It was not possible to escape the poignancy of the presence of Elizabeth Regan. Her parents, Maj. Gen. David F. Wherley Jr. and Ann Wherley, were killed in the crash.
It was the first time that Regan, who has a 5-year-old daughter, attended the annual memorial event.
“I want her to know the parents that I loved so dearly and the grandparents she wouldn’t know,” she said.
She said Saturday night that she hoped that the survivors will help one other, support each other and keep each other going.
With the visible closeness among the survivors at the vigil, what Regan wanted to encourage appeared to already be happening.