Dozens of candles flickered in the chilly air Monday evening as friends, family and school and government officials gathered at Seneca Valley High School to honor the memory of Christina Morris-Ward, who was struck and killed while walking to school Oct. 31.
Tina, as her friends and family called her, a sophomore at Seneca Valley, was a few blocks from the school when a Ford Fusion struck her at approximately 7 a.m. as she crossed Md. 118 in Germantown, Montgomery County police spokeswoman Angela Cruz said. An ambulance transported her to Shady Grove Hospital, where she died from the injuries she sustained in the accident, Cruz said.
Cruz said that, according to witnesses, Kevin B. Carlson, 27, had a green light when his car struck Morris-Ward, 15. He stayed at the scene of the accident, she said. Carlson has not been charged and an investigation into the accident is ongoing, according to Cruz.
More than 100 students and adults attended the vigil, which took place in the main parking lot in front of Seneca Valley High School.
Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett, County Councilman Craig Rice (D-Dist. 2), and Luther Reynolds, commander of the county police department’s 5th District, also attended.
The message from those who gathered on Monday was to remember Tina and to try to prevent similar tragedies.
Shortly before the vigil, Tina’s mother, Gwendolyn Ward, described her daughter as “a goofy little girl who liked to have fun, who was quiet, but confided in her friends.”
She said she would miss driving with her daughter, “sharing little songs, riding in the car, listening to music.”
“I didn’t think I would be able to stand and be here tonight,” she told the mourners, adding that it was important to advocate for pedestrian safety. ”I don’t want someone else to lose their loved one.”
Tina’s classmates remembered her gregarious personality and steadfast nature.
“She’d give me lots of advice,” said Gaby Peña, 16, a sophomore who sat in front of Tina in one of their classes. “She was a silly, happy, sometimes loud person.”
Lydia Terell, 15, was in Tina’s history class. They passed notes and sometimes gossiped about boys, she said, adding that each would take notes for the other if one of them was late.
Malika Budd, a 10th-grader who was standing with Lydia, said she remembered Tina “joking around, but in a playful manner,” and taking lots of photos with her smartphone.
School and county officials pleaded with and admonished students and drivers to be more careful while driving.
“Keep safe,” Seneca Valley High School Principal Marc Cohen told students. “Take care of yourselves, so this tragedy doesn’t happen again.”
Reynolds asked students to remain alert. “Don’t text while crossing the street,” he added.
Rice said that a meeting with county police and other public safety officials, which is scheduled for Nov. 19, would examine how to better address pedestrian safety.
Leggett said the tragedy left him “very troubled.”
“I know sometime we will have the answer to how we can avoid these types of tragedies,” he said. “That is not before us today.
“Students, dream as she dreamed, and also, be safe. ... If you do that, this life will not be one in vain.”