Death is one of those things Seneca Valley student Ramatu Kembe doesn’t quite understand, especially the reason it had to come for her friend and fellow classmate, Christina Morris-Ward.
"I miss her a lot and I wish she could be with me,” Kembe said. “But there's a lot of things that we don't understand, and death is one of them. I wish I could have just hugged her before she left, but I couldn't."
Kembe was one of several to share memories of the late Christina Morris-Ward, 15, during a vigil outside Seneca Valley High School Monday night.
Morris-Ward, a sophomore, was struck and killed by a car as she walked to school on Halloween morning. Amid the air of mourning and tears during the vigil was hope that the community would learn from what happened to Morris-Ward.
“It's going to be hard,” said her mother Gwendolyn Ward. “We're going to lay her to rest on Friday. I just want you all to keep it going and remember Christina and continue to cherish her.”
Montgomery County Councilman Craig Rice, who represents Germantown, said a meeting had been convened with Montgomery County police and Montgomery County Public Schools administrators on Nov. 19 to discuss ways to improve pedestrian safety for students, in response to Morris-Ward’s death.
“You have my promise,” Rice said, addressing the family. “I do not want to have to attend another function like this, to see another young person's life snuffed out. It's not acceptable.”
Meanwhile, making its way through the crowd was a petition launched by a parent, calling for improved safety measures at Germantown Road and Wisteria Drive, where Christina was hit.
According to Montgomery County police, Morris-Ward was in the process of crossing Germantown Road when she was struck by a 2010 Ford Fusion travelling north on a green signal. Police said she succumbed to her injuries at the hospital. No charges were filed against the driver.
“It hurts,” said Brenda Morris, her grandmother. “I wish these drivers would slow down and look out for these kids.”
Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett, who expressed his condolences to the family, called Morris-Ward's death tragic. He said it was his hope that the number of car collisions with pedestrians would be reduced to “zero.”
“I know that at some point in time we will have all the answers to avoid these types of tragedies,” Leggett said. “I know that at some point in time we will understand what it is and what we need to do to be safe. Unfortunately, that is not before us today."
Seneca Valley students and Morris-Ward’s former classmates from Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School came in droves, some of them wearing red bandannas as a show of support.
They described her as warm, caring and fun to be around.
“I wanted to show support, to show that I care,” said Tania Davis, a 12-year-old student who knew Morris-Ward from Martin Luther King Middle School.
“Every day I saw her, I always gave her a hug,” Davis said.
Fifth District Commander Luther Reynolds of the Montgomery County Police Department offered his personal prayers to Morris-Ward’s family and urged drivers and students to mind the rules of the road.
"We all need to model this behavior as adults," Reynolds said.
Seneca Valley High School Principal Marc Cohen encouraged students to honor Morris-Ward’s memory by trying to embody the good qualities they said she possessed — her humor, her empathy, her smile, her strong drive to live out her own dreams.
"Every morning when you wake up and everyday when you go to bed,” Cohen said, “remember your dreams and do everything you can to live them out because it's what she would want for you."