Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts

This week’s column is written through anger and tears – a lot of both. Pedestrian-vehicle conflicts rarely end up favorably for the pedestrian, and the past weekend was especially horrendous for pedestrians in Mason District. Worse still, both accidents were avoidable, if only the drivers had been paying attention to their driving.

Friday, May 20, 2022 was a perfect spring day for a walk-through of maintenance issues in the Annandale revitalization area. About a dozen county staff, contractors, and resident volunteers had gathered in a small parking lot near Maple Place and Annandale Road, the starting point for examination of signage, plantings, sidewalks, and curbs that are maintained by a contractor engaged by Fairfax County.

Revitalization districts generally have streetscape improvements — plantings, street furniture, trees, specialized streetlights -— that activate the “downtown” area and make it more attractive for shopping and socialization.

The session was intended to review plans for this year’s contractor work, but it ended, almost before it began, with police and ambulances responding to frantic 911 calls. A car had gone off the road, entered the parking lot, and struck four people, like a ball hitting the pins at the end of a bowling lane. Injuries ranged from a broken arm, to a broken hip and femur, and life-threatening multiple injuries.

Two county employees, a contractor, and a well-known Annandale resident were rushed to INOVA Fairfax Hospital where their conditions are in various stages of diagnosis and treatment. Unknown is the effect of the incident on the people who weren’t physically injured, but saw the entire accident happen without warning.

Police investigation revealed that the driver went off the road and into the parking lot after she spilled a drink in her car, which caused her to take her eyes off the road, jump the curb and change the lives of multiple people, including her own, in an instant. Far better to let the drink leak all over the seat than to cause such a horrible accident. Charges are pending for the driver; recoveries will be pending for the victims for a very long time.

Sunday night, another avoidable accident occurred in the Lincolnia area, when an SUV exiting from I-395 onto westbound Little River Turnpike hit a young woman in the crosswalk at Oasis Drive, and then left the scene. Her injuries also are life-threatening, as the impact threw her at least 50 feet. Sometime later, the driver did return to the scene and was arrested for felony hit-and-run. Both instances remind us that the simple act of going to or from work (the young woman was on her way home from her job at a nearby restaurant) may mean that you don’t get home at the end of the day.

Driving is both a privilege and a responsibility. The average personal vehicle weighs between 2000 and 6000 pounds, essentially a tank to anyone on foot or bicycle, that can maim and kill in an instant. As we head into the heavily traveled Memorial Day weekend, which also kicks off summer activities, please remember the heavy (literally) responsibility we have as drivers. Better to take a little extra time and patience during travels than end up as another sad statistic.

Back in March, I wrote about a wonderful woman, Roxanne Roch-Rigo, who beat breast cancer into remission, only to have the disease return with a vengeance as leukemia. Blood transfusions are part of the treatment and Roxanne organized an INOVA blood drive at Glory Days at Barcroft Plaza that would help her, and other leukemia patients. Dozens of friends and neighbors came out to donate blood on a brisk Sunday, and Roxanne was her usual positive, delightful self, greeting and hugging everyone, celebrating life.

If sheer grit and a positive outlook could beat cancer, Roxanne would do it. Alas, her fight ended on May 8, and another celebration of life was held last weekend, with only Roxanne’s infectious smile and memories of a valiant woman to console her family and many friends. I’m sure she would want to remind everyone to continue to donate lifesaving blood through INOVA.

Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at mason@fairfaxcounty.gov.