Thousands of people board commuter trains in the Washington metro area every day, never expecting any danger.
But on one February night in 1996, the danger became real.
A MARC commuter train that had originated from Brunswick collided with an Amtrak train head-on in Silver Spring. Eleven people were killed, and eight of them were students in the Harpers Ferry Job Corps.
Even after 21 years have passed, it’s still difficult for those close to the tragedy. Kenny Barron and Wade Hampton will always remember – they both worked for the Job Corps. They said the students were traveling home for a long weekend, but they never got there.
“None of them, nor their families, nor us, had a clue that that day would end so tragically,” said Hampton, who was a vocational teacher with the Harpers Ferry Job Corps.
It’s believed the crew on board the MARC train missed a warning signal, and struck the Amtrak train before going off the rails.
“The kids couldn’t get out, and they were banging on windows and everything. They couldn’t break them out,” said Barron, who was employed as a cook with the Job Corps. “Seven of the eight that were lost in the tragedy were burned…burned alive. People are around trying to help, trying to help – and they can’t.”
All three MARC crew members also died in the accident.
As the years continue to go by, many who were personally involved don’t want it to simply fade into history.
“You think about those young people, what they could’ve been in life and who they would have become,” Hampton said. “I mean, who knows.”
“Things are just so easily forgotten over the years,” Barron added. “I wanted things to be remembered.”
There are memorials located at the site of the crash itself in Silver Spring, as well as the Brunswick train station and the Job Corps grounds in Harpers Ferry.
Below are the names of the MARC crew members who perished:
- Ricky Orr (Engineer)
- Jimmy Major, Jr. (Conductor)
- Jim Quillen (Asst. Conductor)
Below are the names of the Harpers Ferry Job Corps students who died:
- Carlos Byrd
- Diana Hanvichid
- Claudius Kessoon
- Thomas Loatman
- Ka’ris Rudder
- Dante Swain
- Michael Woodson