On Thursday, 18-year-old Dante Swain passed the math test that qualified him to earn a long-sought high school equivalency diploma. Friday night, after a call to his mother in East Baltimore, Mr. Swain headed home for the weekend, boarding a commuter train that would crash in Silver Spring.
"He called me from the train station" in Harpers Ferry, his mother, Marjorie Swain, said last night from her Rose Street rowhouse. "He told he was going to call me again at 7:30," when he arrived in Baltimore. But the call never came, and Mrs. Swain learned at 11 p.m. that her son had been killed in the crash.
"He was so young," said his father, John Swain, a correctional officer. The Swains have been married 25 years.
Dante Swain was one of two Baltimore youths killed in the Silver Spring crash, along with fellow Job Corps student Carlos M. Byrd, 18, of North Baltimore, who was seeking the training he needed to become a nurse's aide.
In Mr. Swain's case, the ill-fated train's route was to have taken him first to Washington's Union Station, then north to Baltimore, where he was born on June 15, 1977.
Took interest in carpentry
As a toddler, Dante was curious, his mother said. As he grew up on Rose Street, he often walked seven blocks south to play basketball with friends at the Patterson Park recreation center.
But as a teen-ager, Dante began hanging out on street corners and missing school. His worried parents sent him in June 1994 to the Jobs Corps program in Harpers Ferry, W.Va., where he learned carpentry, studied for his high school diploma and changed his attitude, his parents said.
"I was worried about him before he went to Harpers Ferry; he had poor attendance in school, and didn't have a lot of discipline," said Mrs. Swain.
Dante also made several close friends and thought he could become a carpenter, perhaps after a stint in the military. "He really took an interest in carpentry," said his father. "It was just something he wanted to go into."
But his first love was sports, particularly basketball. Slim and just under 6 feet tall, Dante had an accurate jump shot. His parents said one of their regrets is that they never got to see him play for the Harpers Ferry team.
Even after he moved to Harpers Ferry, his mother kept up his small room on the second floor. Dante had a Boston Celtics bedspread and pillow case to match the curtains on the lone window.
A trophy from the Job Corps football team sits on top of a bureau. Shirts hang behind the door. The tile floor and a small rug are worn from 16 years of nearly constant play. Mrs. Swain said her grandson (son of Dante's older brother) plays in there now.
On the wall across from the bed rests a picture of a 3-year-old Dante, precocious and with lots of hair. Downstairs, Mrs. Swain has a number of pictures of her younger son from his early teens; when he reached high school, he wouldn't let his parents take his picture anymore.
But as she looked over his room last night, Mrs. Swain was proudest of her son's schoolbooks lined along the bedroom floor. A graduation ceremony for Dante had been scheduled for this week.
His parents say they will attend.
'He loved it there'
At the Byrd residence in North Baltimore last night, grieving relatives remembered Carlos Byrd as a determined young man with his heart set on a career as a nurse's aide.
The youngest of three children, he attended Northern High School but joined the Job Corps in October, said his father, Goldon Byrd III. He was scheduled to graduate this summer.
"He loved it there," said the elder Mr. Byrd, who works at Domino Sugar Corp. "And he got along with everybody. He was a mentor and a leader to many people he knew."
Born on Sept. 9, 1977, at what is now Mercy Medical Center, Carlos was baptized at St. Matthew's Catholic Church and attended elementary school there, relatives said. Mr. Byrd said that his son grew up to be an avid sports fan and enjoyed music.
The elder Mr. Byrd had his final conversation with his son last week. On Friday, the younger man was on his way home to spend the weekend with his parents.
Family members -- many of whom were too upset to give their names -- gathered at the Byrd home last night. At shortly before 11 p.m., a police officer arrived and confirmed to the family that Carlos had been killed in the crash.