Family remembers Elizabeth Nass as 'smart, bold, intelligent'

Just a week ago, Elizabeth Conway Nass sat down with her father, Eric, to plan out a semester abroad in Norway.

She wanted his advice on how she would spend the second half of her junior year overseas while staying on track to earn a bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary liberal studies from James Madison University. Her family said Ms. Nass dreamed of becoming a special education teacher, except for a brief stint when she decided she wanted to be a firefighter after seeing "Ladder 49."

Ms. Nass had expected to return to college in Harrisonburg, Va., in a few days. But she and her friend, Rose Louese Mayr, were killed last week when a train derailed along the railroad bridge over Main Street in Ellicott City, where the young women were sitting. They were both 19.

"I don't think we have even begun to experience the magnitude of the loss," Ms. Nass' mother, Sue, said Saturday.

The family gathered in their Ellicott City living room to talk about the memory of their daughter and sister, a day after Ms. Nass' funeral. A bouquet of sunflowers sat next to white and pink roses in the shape of a peace sign on a brick fireplace in the living room.

Ms. Nass' older brother, Brendan Nass, 22, said his sister was "smart, bold and intelligent." She followed her brother to James Madison University, where he graduated in 2011 with a bachelor's degree in health sciences. Ms. Nass, a 2010 Mount Hebron High School graduate, intended to join Teach for America when she graduated.

"She loved kids," Brendan Nass said. "She was smart enough she could have done anything, but she wanted to do something where she knew she was helping people. She loved helping children. She loved being a role model."

Ms. Nass was born in Louisville, Ky., in 1992. The Nasses lived in London and the Netherlands when she was a child. Her father, who worked for General Electric at the time, is a mergers and acquisitions consultant. Her mother is a speech pathologist for infants and toddlers in Howard County.

Her younger brother, Jonathan, 16, said he admired his sister's writing ability. Ms. Nass wrote a family newsletter when she was younger called, "Liz News." She wrote about the books her parents were reading, her cousin's accomplishments and current events, such as Saddam Hussein's capture by U.S. forces.

Her father said Ms. Nass' proudest accomplishment came when she earned a spot dancing on her high school's Lancer drill team.

"I'll never forget her calling me," Eric Nass said. "She assumed she wouldn't make it. Her goal was to make the first cut. She was so happy."

Ms. Nass is also survived by a stepmother, Patricia Walsh Nass, and her 18-year-old stepbrother, Connor DeCicco.