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A Memorial to a Predictable Tragedy

Route 1 fatality draws attention to growing safety concerns.

"It will be a quiet remembrance. Not a made up event. This is for real."

That is how the memorial gathering planned for Norman Mackie III, was described by Captain David Lyons, EMS Supervisor, Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department. The gathering will be held at the site of Mackie's death on Route 1 on Thursday, Feb. 14, at 5 p.m.

On Thursday night, Feb. 7, at approximately 7:30 p.m. Mackie, 42, walked on Route 1 near the intersection with Backlick Road and was struck and killed by a Honda van driven by Donna J. Owens, 53, of Woodbridge, according to police investigators. Mackie was pronounced dead at Inova Mount Vernon Hospital.

Fairfax County Police determined neither speed or alcohol was a factor with the driver and no charges were filed. However, their report indicated that Mackie had been drinking. But, they did not cite that as the cause of the accident.

Lyons, founder of Safe Crossings, an independent grassroots coalition of concerned citizens who want to make Richmond Highway safer for pedestrians, emphasized, "There was no fault on the part of either Mackie or the driver. It's the conditions of the location. It's extremely dangerous."

Mackie had been a resident of the Eleanor Kennedy Shelter, located at Fort Belvoir on land given to the county for such a facility, according to Rev. Keary Kincannon, paster of Rising Hope United Methodist Mission Church. Mackie was a parishioner of the church for several years.

"At the time of the accident Norman was living with an Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor," Kincannon clarified. "He was beginning to pull his life together. He even had a job at Starbucks.

"He had hit the skids with a mental problem that was exacerbated by the drinking. But he had overcome his difficulties. I was very pleased with his progress. And then this tragedy."

TWO EVENTS SCHEDULED

A Memorial Service will be held at the church, 8605 Engleside Office Park, just off Route 1, at 3:30 p.m. This will be followed by a gathering of parishioners and supporters of Safe Crossings at the accident site near Fort Belvoir.

"The gathering at the site will be a very dignified thing. There will be no raucous crowds or demonstrators. We want people to think about what needs to be done to make crossing Route 1 safer. We need government to think about this," Lyons stated.

"It's an absolutely scary feeling to try and cross Route 1. It's like being on the wrong side of a video game," Lyons insisted. "We're hopeful something will get done.

"Over the years I have seen many fatal crashes at this site. It wasn't far from here that the three teenagers died a couple of weeks ago and there was another pedestrian hit just three hours after Mackie. There's nothing for pedestrians. Tragedy is inevitable."

Safe Crossings literature notes that, "Since 1995, the Fairfax County Fire and rescue Department has responded to over 260 reports of pedestrians being struck along the Richmond Highway corridor. Thirteen of these have been fatalities." That was before Mackie.

The organization's information states, "The seven and one half miles of Route 1 in Fairfax County has the negative distinction of being one of the most dangerous thoroughfares in the State for pedestrians." It has been estimated that it carries approximately 80,000 vehicles per day.

As a paramedic with the county Fire and Rescue Department since 1987, Lyons has first-hand knowledge of the carnage. "A lot of the pedestrian accidents are preventable. More needs to be done to help those who flow back and forth across the highway," he emphasized.