Just blocks from the spot where Rose Mayr and Elizabeth Nass were killed during a train derailment last summer, about 600 people honored their memory by running a two-mile race through historic Ellicott City Saturday morning.
Mayr and Nass, 19-year-old friends who grew up in Ellicott City and graduated from Mount Hebron High School, were sitting on a bridge late on the night of Aug. 20 last year when a CSX train derailed, burying them in coal and killing them.
"It shook the community to its roots," recalled Jim Bothe, a friend of the Nass family who emceed Saturday's 2 Miles for 2 Hearts Memorial Run.
Not only did the community grieve two young lives lost, but the cleanup and investigation closed down Main Street for nearly a week.
The race drew 75 members of the extended Mayr and Nass families, plus friends and people who never met the young women but were inspired to honor their memory.
Rose's father, Mark Mayr, told the crowd at the finish line that seeing the support of so many people helps fill the hole the families feel in their hearts. "We're feeling the hole really bad this time of year," he said.
"It's great to have the support," said Elizabeth's mother, Sue Nass, who wore race bib No. 1. "These girls touched a lot of lives."
She said she hopes the race will become an annual event to remember the young women and to give back to the community that has supported the two families.
The race will raise money for a pair of scholarships established in the women's names: the Rose Mayr Nursing Scholarship at Howard Community College and the Elizabeth Nass Scholarship at Mount Hebron High School, which will go to a graduate who plans to attend James Madison University in Virginia.
Organizer Rusty Allwein said the total amount raised hasn't been determined yet.
The families honored Howard County's Department of Fire and Rescue Services with a plaque during the race's closing ceremonies.
Many runners wore their race T-shirts, which featured a peace sign, with a rose stem and its roots forming the design. Members of the Mayr and Nass families wore light blue versions of the T-shirt.
Others wore gear from Mount Hebron High School, the Ellicott City school from which the women graduated in 2010. Several had shirts and jackets from the school's drill team, the Lancers. Both women were dancers and members of the team.
A group of about 20 came from the University of Delaware in gray-blue shirts with a design that incorporated the caduceus medical symbol and a rose to honor Rose Mayr, who was a nursing student at Delaware.
Jill Booth of Georgetown, Del., was Mayr's roommate. Booth described her friend as a funny and engaging young woman who was a natural fit for nursing.
"She was hilarious. She was really fun to be around. She was a once-in-a-lifetime personality," Booth said.
Mayr and Nass, who attended James Madison University and had visited Delaware, were a dynamic duo, Booth said.
Members of the Delaware group said they appreciated having a positive event to remember Mayr. They liked seeing Mayr's hometown and the support from her longtime friends.
"We want to be part of the celebration of her life and Elizabeth's life," said Meredith Herbert, a nursing student from Atlanta. "We miss her."
Ingrid Vaughan of Ellicott City knew the Nass family through the extended world of Mount Hebron High School. Her nephew from Norway stayed with the Nass family during a foreign exchange trip.
"We were all very fond of Elizabeth," said Vaughan, who ran the race with her daughter, Hannah, a 2012 graduate of Mount Hebron. "The community just wants to support in any way we can."
During a private ceremony Friday, the Howard County government dedicated a pair of benches for the women at Tiber Park, near the railroad bridge. The benches were paid for by donations from the Ellicott City Business Association, family and friends.