Wednesday, June 24, 2009

One was a retired general who scrambled jets over the District after the Sept. 11 attacks. Another was a mother on her way to pick up her two toddlers from day care. A third was an elderly man going to teach a summer Bible class.

They were among the nine people killed suddenly during Monday’s catastrophic Metro train crash, which also sent about 80 people to the hospital and crippled the D.C. transit system.

Retired Maj. Gen. David F. Wherley Jr. and his wife, Ann Wherley, both 62, of Southeast, died in the accident.

Gen. Wherley led the D.C. National Guard as it transitioned from a weekend-warrior force into an active-duty force. Since his recent retirement, he had undergone heart surgery and was planning a trip to Europe this year with his wife.

“I had the opportunity to work with him as he commanded the troops here in D.C. and as he sent them off to war,” Mayor Adrian M. Fenty said. “He was a fine public servant, dedicated to the United States of America and everything that is great about this country as anyone I have ever met.”

LaVonda King, 23, of Northeast, was on her way to pick up her sons - Andre, 3, and Emmanuel, 1- from day care when she got on the Red Line train.

Things had been going great in her life, her older sister said. She’d just gotten the keys to her beauty shop last week after graduating from beauty school.

She loved her boys, Delshawnda King said, and would take them to Chuck E. Cheese. “She was one of those mothers who was always with her kids.”

The second-oldest of seven siblings, Ms. King said her younger sister “was a very happy and outgoing person.”

Her sister’s dream, she said, had been to open her own place. She wanted to run a business and help people look good. She graduated from college in Ohio, become a bank teller and recently accomplished her childhood dream.

“She always wanted to do your hair. Put your makeup on. Tell you how to dress,” Ms. King said.

The family is trying to hold things together, Ms. King said. Last night, her mother went to the crash site, hoping that her cell phone remained unanswered for some other reason.

As for her sons, “they know, but they’re too young to feel what we feel. They just wonder where their mom is,” Ms. King said.

Dennis Hawkins, 64, of Southeast, was on his way to teach vacation Bible school. Monday was the first day of the summer program. He had worked as a clerk at the J.G. Whittier Education Center since August 2001. His brother Kenneth Hawkins said, “My brother was a very simple, devoted Christian individual. And that’s what he was doing. He was doing God’s work.”

Mary “Mandy” Doolittle, 59, of Northwest, rode the Red Line to and from work nearly every day. Ms. Doolittle was on her way home from the American Nurses’ Association in Silver Spring, where she worked educating people about credentialing requirements for nursing, her boss, Jeanne Floyd, said.

Since news of Ms. Doolittle’s death broke, the office has been inundated with e-mails from friends, co-workers and former employees commemorating her life and her accomplishments. “She would come on almost a daily basis and ask, ‘What can I do today?’ ” Ms. Floyd said, adding that she was always joyful and caring about others.

Ana Fernandez, 40, of Hyattsville, was also killed in the accident. Ms. Fernandez had raised six children and worked as a housekeeper, according to news reports.

Cameron Williams, 37, also was killed in the accident.

Veronica DuBose, 29, of Northwest, was a single mother raising two children. Her daughter, Ava, was just 18 months. Ms. DuBose, a certified nursing assistant who worked on contract, was headed back to school to study phlebotomy. She wanted to work more stable hours and be home for her daughter and 8-year-old son, Raja.

On Father’s Day, she insisted the family have barbecue. Her stepmother said the chicken is probably still in her refrigerator.

Her family described her as independent and funny. Lindsey DuBose, 20, said, “Everybody who came in contact with her and showed her love, she would show love back.”

Jeanice McMillan, 42, who lived in Springfield, was the operator of the train that crashed into the back of a stationary train. She was a single mother who had proudly raised a son on her own and sent him to college, friends and colleagues recalled.

“She’d stay overnight just to put him through school,” said Carol Williams, a fellow Metro train operator.

Earl Beatty, who was her union shop steward, met Ms. McMillan when she started with Metro two years ago. “She said she wanted a career, not a job,” he said.

Her 25-year-old neighbor, Alisha Anderson, said Ms. McMillan spent her time working, studying for her job at Metro and taking care of her son, but she still had time to treat Ms. Anderson’s children as nephews.

“Every time the kids were in the hallway, she would pop her head out and say, ‘What you all doing? You want some fish?’ And the fish were those gummy candies. And I’d say, ‘Jeanice, don’t give ‘em candy.’ And she’d say, ‘Come on, Alisha, they can have some candy.’ ”

Ms. Joanne Harrison, a neighbor who lived across the hall, said her job meant the world to her.

“She was so proud of Metro. I hope Metro is proud of her,” she said.

Ms. Harrison, 47, was stunned by Ms. McMillan’s death.

“She would have stopped [the train] if she could,” she said. “Something went wrong. It wasn’t the operator’s fault. She cared about Metro so much. She wouldn’t have done anything to risk her job or life. She loved life and she loved her passengers.”

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