A memorial honoring the nine people killed in the 2009 crash on Metro's Red Line in Washington, D.C., opened Monday, marking six years since the deadliest accident in the transit agency's history.
Among those killed were the driver of one of the trains, who was a single mother, and a retired major general and his wife.
Legacy Memorial Park opened at 11 a.m. Monday, with nine towering stone pillars to represent each life lost in the crash. The park also features a memorial wall remembering the victims. The idea behind it all is to give family members a peaceful place to remember their loved ones. Benches will allow visitors to sit and reflect.
Yavonne Dubose, who lost her stepdaughter in the crash, says the loss is still very painful, but she finds the memorial comforting.
"It's going to have to take some time," Dubose said, her voice shaking as she struggled to hold back tears. "It's going to take more time than the six years that have gone by."
White dove balloons were placed along the memorial wall for Monday's dedication ceremony.
Many family members of the victims saw the memorial for the first time Monday, saying the park is comforting and they're pleased with how it turned out.
The park is located at the corner of 5720 New Hampshire Ave. NE and North Dakota Avenue NE, near the site of the crash, which happened between the Takoma Park and Fort Totten stations.
The crash occurred during the height of the afternoon rush on June 22, 2009, killing nine and injuring many more. A six-car train was headed downtown when it rear-ended another train that had stopped on the same track.
The first train had been waiting for another train to clear the Fort Totten station ahead, said John Catoe, then Metro's general manager. The second train, one of the oldest in the Metro fleet, crashed into the first and jackknifed on top of the first train.
Those who lost their lives in the crash came from a range of backgrounds.
The victims were:
- Retired Maj. Gen. David F. Wherley Jr. and his wife, Ann Wherley, both 60 -- The Wherleys were married for almost 40 years, and their friends said they did almost everything together. The new grandparents were high school sweethearts and were the king and queen of their senior prom. At the time of the crash, the Wherleys were returning home from a visit to Walter Reed Army Hospital, where they were training to become volunteers. As a command pilot for the D.C. National Guard, Maj. Gen. Wherley was the leader of the 113th Wing at Andrews Air Force Base. He ordered fighter jets over the Capitol to keep the Washington area safe during the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Ann Wherley was a breast cancer survivor and a successful mortgage broker. She loved gourmet cooking and throwing dinner parties for her friends to showcase her latest recipes.
- Ana Fernandez, 40 -- Fernandez was saving up money for a formal church wedding with her husband, Oscar Flores. A former widow, Fernandez was raising five of her six children when she was killed. Evelyn, her oldest daughter, said her mother always worked two jobs to take care of her kids. The Washington Post reported Fernandez had only just returned two weeks ago to her old nightly commute to the District and a custodial job cleaning offices.
- LoVonda "Nikki" King, 23 -- King, who was the youngest victim of the crash, was in the midst of opening her own beauty salon, called LaVonda's House of Beauty. A 2003 graduate of Largo High School, King left behind two sons. She was planning to get married later in the year.
- Cameron Williams, 37 -- Williams was heading to work as a nighttime contract laborer. A graduate of Coolidge High School, he was talking to his grandmother and aunt before heading to the Metro station.
- Jeanice McMillan, 42 -- McMillian was driving the train at the time of the crash. She joined Metro in 2007 to send her son, Jordan, to college. As a single mother, McMillan loved being a train operator because she felt like she was helping so many people get to work every day, her friends and family said.
- Dennis Hawkins, 54 -- Hawkins was known as the “heartbeat" of Whittier Elementary School in Northwest D.C., where he worked as a non-instructional aide. Children and parents were said to love Hawkins. Hawkins earned his Master's degree from the University of the District of Columbia. On the day of the accident, he was on his way to teach vacation Bible school at Bethesda Baptist Church.
- Mary Doolittle, 59 -- Doolittle worked at the American Nurses Association. She developed an international outreach program and helped with global accreditation for nurses. She was planning a trip to Italy with her partner of 15 years.
- Veronica Dubose, 29 -- Dubose was on her way to nursing classes in the District. She left behind two young children. Dubose was a diehard Washington Redskins fan and a graduate of Theodore Roosevelt Senior High School in D.C.