D.C. mayor answers Metro crash families' call for memorial park

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Local,DC,Maryland,Virginia,Transportation,Kytja Weir
The memorial marking the second anniversary of the deadly Red Line crash turned emotional Wednesday when a grieving mother unfurled a poster-sized photograph of her daughter's dead body.

"She put her trust into Metro," Carolyn Jenkins said as wails erupted from the audience. "This is how she wound up, with a tag on her face."

The photo showed a morgue tag, 09.1458, resting on the lifeless cheek of Veronica DuBose, one of the nine people killed when a train crashed into a stopped train outside the Fort Totten station on June 22, 2009.

Jenkins said it was inappropriate for Metro to have put a plaque memorializing the victims at the Fort Totten train station, where Wednesday's event occurred. "They never made it to Fort Totten," she said.

Instead, she and other victims' families have asked for a memorial more than half a mile away at the New Hampshire Avenue bridge that crosses over the tracks where the crash occurred. They want the victims' names and photos listed, plus a nearby park dedicated to their memories so the children they left behind have a place to remember their parents.

Kenneth Hawkins, whose brother Dennis was killed in the crash, said he had asked officials about the park last year but heard nothing further.

And when asked about it Tuesday, Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said the agency was not involved in any park project.

But after the families' comments Wednesday, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray told the families that he would help them with a park. He and four D.C. council members -- Kwame Brown, Harry Thomas Jr., Muriel Bowser and Yvette Alexander -- spoke at the service, even though none were scheduled to speak.

"Let me make a commitment today that it will be done," Gray said. "If we can't do this, we ought to turn in our badges."

Jenkins and Tawanda Brown, mother of Lavonda "Nikki" King, said it was a good feeling to hear the mayor promise to create a park.

But Hawkins was skeptical. "It's all about image," he said. "There may be some sincerity there. This too shall pass."

Gray credited the tragedy and its victims with ending the debate over funding Metro, easing the way for the transit agency to get an extra $50 million each from the District, Maryland and Virginia plus $150 million from Congress. "Give applause," he said. "They are responsible for preserving the Metro system."

kweir@washingtonexaminer.com

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Kytja Weir

Staff Writer - Transportation
The Washington Examiner