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Aftermath of a tragedy

The Baltimore Sun

Driving along Indian Head Highway toward Accoceek on a cold, quiet and gray Sunday morning, it was difficult to fathom the carnage that had taken place just 30 hours before, when eight people were killed while watching a drag race. Indeed, many things about the accident were hard to comprehend, especially the preventable loss of life.

My assignment was to cover any follow-up activity the day after the accident. I took pictures of several pink and red symbols that had been painted in lines like hieroglyphics from the highway to the adjacent ground, depicting the path of the white Crown Victoria as it had barreled through the crowd, leaving fatal wreckage. Ironically, the car that killed the spectators was apparently unrelated to the illegal race. Ironic or not, it is a tragedy just the same.

I photographed relatives and friends of those killed on the site; they said illegal drag racing had taken place for decades on this stretch of Route 210 and elsewhere in the state. It was therefore disconcerting that it had never been stopped by the authorities. It was also baffling that people apparently stood in the middle of a highway in the middle of the night to watch.

I also photographed the word "body," spray-painted in red on the flattened grass - the precise spot where someone had died just hours earlier. The ground and a parallel street, Beech Lane, were spattered with red circles marking where people had died, and words indicating what belongings were found: "keys," "hat," "shoe," "boot."

A makeshift memorial had been created for Maycol Lopez, 20, with a photograph and a wooden cross bearing the name, date of birth and date of death - a bright-faced young being claimed way too soon.

Family and friends walked this sacred ground as if trying to retrace the last steps of a son, daughter, mother or father - as if doing so could turn back the clock and bring them back to life. After spending several hours there, I still found it hard to wrap my mind around the fact that eight people died on that spot on that Saturday night. But for the loved ones of those killed, their pain-stricken faces cried out that for them, it was all too real.

algerina.perna@baltsun.com

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