In the days after her sister, Rose, died in a train derailment, Anna Mayr felt as if her younger sibling were upstairs sleeping while friends swapped stories on the family's Ellicott City porch until the early hours of Sunday.
Anna Mayr, a May graduate of the University of Maryland, had just moved to New York City to start a career in finance when her father called Tuesday to tell her the unimaginable news: Rose was killed when a CSX train ran off the tracks and buried her and one of her best friends, Elizabeth Conway Nass, in coal. The women, both 19, were sitting on the railroad bridge above Main Street in historic Ellicott City when the accident occurred about midnight Monday.
"The way I pictured it, it was a party for her and everyone was really happy," Anna Mayr said of her sister. "It was like she was here, but upstairs.
"We just talked about Rose."
It is support of friends and family that has allowed the Mayrs to go on in recent days, they said. Their home, the one where Rose and Anna were raised, is lined with bouquets of flowers and stacks of sympathy cards. Scattered throughout the dining room are a half-dozen posterboards, prepared for Rose's funeral Saturday, adorned with snapshots of family vacations, holidays and milestones.
Reminders of Rose's life — photos displayed on the refrigerators, the songs she recorded on the computer, her senior portrait above the fireplace — fill the space. But it is the waves of Rose's friends and classmates that have brought the most comfort, her parents said.
"It does make it easier, to see that so many people care about her," her mother, Sharon Mayr, said.
Anna Mayr added, "It's amazing to see how many people are there for Rose."
Rose Mayr was a 2010 Mount Hebron High School graduate who was studying to be a nurse at the University of Delaware. Her parents had planned to move her into an apartment for the start of her junior year Friday, the day her visitation was held.
"People just were drawn to Rose," Anna Mayr said. "She didn't have to try. People just loved her. Little kids, they would always go to Rose. People would just meet Rose and they would remember her."
The family said Rose was brimming with talent: She sang, danced and drew with skill and natural ability.
She was part of her high school's dance company and on the drill team. But she performed for the joy of it rather than accolades, her father said.
Sharon Mayr said she still remembers the awe she was in watching Rose perform.
"I loved watching her dance," Sharon Mayr said. "That was the highlight of my life.
"It was like, 'Wow. I didn't know she could do that.' Or, 'Oh, how could she have learned to do all of that when I didn't even know she was doing it?'"
The family isn't sure how Rose settled on a career as a nurse, but they said she always had the stomach for it. She donated blood without giving it a second thought and once carried her younger cousin to a neighbor's house after the child took a nasty spill on her bicycle.
Rose had intended on starting her clinical rotations at the University of Delaware this year and had told her sister that she would like to go on to earn a master's degree.
"Rose was very independent-minded," her father, Mark Mayr said. "She didn't go down any conventional path."
She decided to attend Delaware, despite the fact that her closest friends were going elsewhere, including Nass, who was attending James Madison University to become a special education teacher.
Mayr and Nass had been friends since kindergarten at Hollifield Station Elementary School, when they were taught by Lisa Davis, who is now coordinator of early childhood programs for the Howard County Public School System. Davis also taught the pair when they were in second grade.
"[I] have such fond memories of both," Davis said. "Our staff so enjoyed watching them both grow up and become the beautiful young women that they were, and then many of us were there to watch them graduate from high school."
Davis said she had an especially strong bond with Nass. Sue Nass, Elizabeth's mother, said she recently came across an essay her daughter wrote about Davis' impact on her life.
"Lizzie had such a magnetic personality, she was just someone that you wanted to be around," Davis said. "I remember her blond pigtails and chubby cheeks with big dimples.
"Elizabeth was wise beyond her years. She had such a great sense of humor. She was able to relate so well to adults, and we had such great conversations. … I often felt like she was watching me, emulating me, judging me, learning from me and teaching me, all at the same time."
Mayr and Nass stayed friends throughout their school years but had grown particularly close this summer. The Nass and Mayr families said the young women had filled the last several weeks with an Orioles game, watched the Fourth of July fireworks from the Inner Harbor, tried paddle boating on Lake Kittamaqundi, and visited their friends at the University of Maryland.
On the night of the accident, the young women had planned one last adventure.
Sharon Mayr said she's coping, knowing that her family and the Nasses have a strong support system to rely on.
"[We're] going to get through this," she said. "That's all I can say."
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