About two months after a CSX train derailment took the lives of two young women and shut down Ellicott City's Main Street for almost a week, U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Howard County Councilwoman Courtney Watson toured Main Street businesses in a show of support Friday, Oct. 19.
"We were all deeply moved by the tragedy of the derailment," Mikulski said. "We want to find out what went wrong and get the policy recommendations so it never happens again. ... We know it had a terrible impact on the families of the two girls killed, and it had an impact on the businesses."
Mikulski said she wanted to get a sense of how local businesses felt the government and private sector responded to the derailment Aug. 21, which took the lives of Rose Mayr and Elizabeth Nass, both 19 and from Ellicott City. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the incident.
The derailment also shut down Main Street, from Old Columbia Pike to Oella Avenue, for several days, affecting the small business owners on that stretch.
"This is ground zero for small businesses," Mikulski said.
During the tour, Mikulski asked Sally Fox Tennant, owner of Discoveries, and Tammy Beideman, owner of Sweet Elizabeth Jane, if small businesses would want help from the government with taxes or capital, but Tennant spoke instead of the possibility of paid parking.
"There does seem to be consensus that there was a very timely and comprehensive response to the derailment," Mikulski said.
Watson said there are 80 businesses, and easily 300 jobs, on Main Street.
"This is a microcosm of the economy," Watson said.
During their time on Main Street, Mikulski and Watson also visited the derailment site, the Forget-Me-Not Factory, Cacao Lane and Tea on the Tiber. Mikulski shook hands and took photographs with people on the street who recognized her, and responded to supporters in their cars, stopped at traffic lights.
Mikulski noted the community support Ellicott City's small businesses received in the wake of the derailment, with a Main Street Appreciation Weekend, Fall Festival and a 27 for Old EC campaign, led by Baltimore Raven's running back Ray Rice.
"With so many high-tech jobs (in the economy), we know that Howard County is high-touch," Mikulski said. "This community has a buzz to it."
Mikulski encouraged people to patronize Ellicott City small businesses this fall.
"You can cruise, schmooze and booze," she said, laughing. "I did the first two today."