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Metro Driver Remembered for €Saving Lives€

Denise Rolark-Barnes | 7/1/2009, 6:03 p.m.

Mourners poured into the Temple of Praise Church sanctuary in Southeast on Fri., June 26 to say goodbye to Jeanice McMillan, the Metro train operator, who died at the helm of Metro train No. 112 during one of the most horrific accidents in the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority€s (WMATA) 33-year history.

€Sad€ but €Inspirational€ Memorial Held in McMillan€s Honor

The crowd of more than 1,000 family members, friends and co-workers recalled McMillan€s €heroic€ final act when she applied the emergency brakes on the Red Line train that slammed into another during the height of rush hour. The collision claimed the lives of McMillan and eight others. Eighty additional passengers aboard the train sustained injuries.

McMillan, 42, of Springfield, Va., was the first of the victims to be eulogized since the tragedy on Mon., June. 22. The transit system honored one of their own during the service. Hundreds of Metro employees who attended dressed in their blue uniforms. Union members of Local 689 carried a 10-foot banner that saluted their colleague and, Metro police honor guard stood sentry outside of the church as mourners filed through the doors.

€On Monday, when we had this tragic loss, she was there, not just doing her job; € she saved lives. She did not back away in the eye of danger,€ Metro General Manager John B. Catoe Jr. told those gathered inside the church.

The emotional two-hour memorial service brought tears to the eyes of both men and women who stood and applauded Catoe€s candid and heartfelt remarks. The crowd cheered when the general manager promised to honor McMillan at Metro headquarters in Northwest €in a proper way€ and as a €Metro Hero.€

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) was among the mourners who attended McMillan€s service. Although, she was the conductor of the train, the mayor called her a €leader€ and said that she would always be remembered that way. €The city and the country have been in shock,€ he said.

Bishop Glenn Staples, pastor of the Temple of Praise Church in Southeast, presides over the memorial service for Jeanice Elaine McMillan, the Metro train operator who was killed on Mon., June 22 while operating the Red Line train at Fort Totten. Photo by Khalid Naji-Allah
Fenty used the somber occasion to note that he is a first generation Washingtonian, although his family originally hails from Buffalo, N.Y. McMillan€s family also lives in Buffalo. Funeral services were held for McMillan in her hometown on Sat., June 27.

€As a city,€ Fenty said, €we have lost a fantastic public servant.€

But, it was her cousin Spence McMillan and her 19-year-old son, Jordan, who left many in the packed church €sad€ but €inspired.€

McMillan did not own a car and transportation to work from her Springfield, Va. home often proved challenging, some recalled. Spence McMillan told the congregation that he was always willing to allow his cousin to use his car, especially on the day that she was scheduled to take her Metro exam.

€The difference between me and Jan is that a lot of people love me; every person [who] Jan met, loved Jan; every last one,€ he said.

Jordan, who had just completed his first year at Virginia Union University in Richmond, Va. in May, surprised the congregation when he decided to speak. Flanked on both sides by his two uncles, Gerald and Vernard McMillan, Jordan said he was proud of his mother. She had sacrificed for him.

€If it wasn€t for her, I don€t know where I€d be.€ He said his mother was strict and because of that, he had only missed seven days of classes throughout his four years in high school.

LaShaun Smith, 39, a bus operator at Metro, and a friend of McMillan€s said McMillan was excited to begin a career with the WMATA. She never complained about her job, Smith said.

McMillan joined Metro in 2007 as a bus driver. She started operating trains three months prior to the fatal collision.

€It was just a freak accident,€ Smith said. €Sometimes, we don€t think about other people; we only think about ourselves. But fortunately, she [McMillan] thought about other people when she tried to stop that train,€ Smith said.

Tony Best, a Prince George€s County housing inspector, said he didn€t know McMillan personally but attended the memorial service because of the bond that exists between public servants.

€It is powerful to see how she took the lives of others in her hands and put them first,€ Best said. €That€s a powerful message to everyone, but especially to people who are out here with the public every day.€