- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A service on Wednesday marking two years since the Metro train crash that killed nine people near the Fort Totten station was partly an apology and partly a promise made by officials with the transit system that they had learned from mistakes.

But a guarantee of progress was not enough for some of the victims’ loved ones, for whom the wounds have not healed.

Carolyn Jenkins, the mother of a woman who died in the crash, sobbed as she demanded a more appropriate memorial than a plaque posted at the rail station commemorating the victims. She unrolled an oversized photograph of her 29-year-old daughter, Veronica DuBose, taken after the woman’s death in the accident, an identification tag resting on her slack cheek.

“I trusted Metro to get her to her destination,” Mrs. Jenkins said. “Why I came here is to tell you I don’t want my daughter’s name up there because she never made it.”

Tawanda Brown, mother of LaVonda King, 23, stood beside Mrs. Jenkins on the small stage outside the station, asking Metro and city officials to consider a memorial plaque between the Takoma and Fort Totten stops, as well as a park for reflection.

“You only seem to be acknowledging this tragedy once a year,” Ms. Brown said, “but we have to live with it every day.

The accident occurred shortly after 5 p.m. June 22, 2009, a train plowed full speed into the back of a stopped train near the Fort Totten station in Northeast. Faulty circuits failed to alert operator Jeanice McMillan that there was a train in front of her and, though she pushed the emergency brake, the force catapulted one of the cars onto another train sitting on the track, killing nine and injuring roughly 80 other riders.

A report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that faulty signal models caused the track to tell the train operator that the track was vacant when it wasn’t.

The accident is the subject of ongoing litigation against Metro and equipment manufacturers.

Since the crash, the deadliest in Metro history, the transit system has taken steps to improve its safety, said Metro General Manager Richard Sarles, who was dressed in a dark suit.

The transit system is replacing older train cars, has inspected and replaced track circuits, and on Thursday, Metro’s board of directors will vote on a fiscal 2012 budget that includes $33 million in safety and security projects.

Mr. Sarles quoted an Irish saying that “death leaves a heartbreak no one can heal. Love leaves a memory no one can steal” before he lead a short procession from the station’s parking lot to a concrete column in the entryway to place a white rose at the foot of the plaque.

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray somberly addressed the fact that neighboring jurisdictions used to waffle on whether the transit system would receive millions in local funding but stepped up to the plate when they realized safety improvements needed to be made.

He asked for applause for “those who sacrificed their lives in this accident … because they are responsible for preserving the future of Metro.” He also promised the families who lost loved ones that he would do whatever he legislatively could to set aside space for a memorial park by the crash’s third anniversary.