These days, it’s harder than ever to avoid distractions on the road. With cell phones constantly going off, shock jocks on the radio, and the constant Facebook updates; to say nothing of the day-to-day distractions our own minds think up for us at all hours.
All of this only makes it more prudent that one should keep an eye on the road just in case. That said, it’s not always possible to see every possibility in front of you. Specifically when danger can rain down in any direction…
Marisa Harris was headed eastbound on I-66 in Maryland. She was driving her 2005 Ford Escape, an SUV and a car she’d always felt safe in. As she came across the overpass at Cedar Lane, she felt the car bump and jerk. She had no idea what had just hit her and sadly, she never would.
It was 4:15 pm when Marisa’s car was hit. The projectile had not been anything mundane. It hadn’t been an overlarge hailstone or a frozen turkey tossed from the overpass by trouble-making kids. No, this particular projectile was much larger and much more dangerous than any of that.
The Final Dive
What hit Marisa’s car was the falling form of a 12-year-old boy. He had plunged from the top of the overpass, striking her SUV with tremendous force. It happened so quickly that Marisa could do nothing to avoid hitting the child. Her boyfriend, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, hadn’t noticed him either.
Too Quick for Words
It all happened too quickly to stop. Neither Marisa nor her boyfriend could have done anything to avoid the boy’s falling body. All he was able to do was to grab the wheel and steer the vehicle off to the side of the road. But what had caused a 12-year-old boy to come falling off the overpass in the first place?
One Hit. One Fallen
Sadly, Marisa Harris was killed by the impact of the boy hitting the car right above her. Paramedics arrived on the scene quickly but pronounced her dead at the scene. Her boyfriend was miraculously unhurt. As for the boy himself, he was still alive but rushed to a nearby hospital.
For the sake of his own safety and privacy, the name of the aforementioned 12-year-old is being kept secret. At the time of the accident, there wasn’t much information to go on as to why a young boy would even find themselves falling from the overpass. But many factors of the incident seem to indicate one particular motive.
After looking a bit into the boy’s past and contacts, Maryland police believe that they have discovered a potential motive for the lad’s ill-timed leap from the overpass. It is believed that the boy was suicidal and that the leap was made of his own volition in an attempt to end his own life. Unfortunately, he failed to realize how much danger his actions ultimately put other people in.
As for Marisa Harris, herself, much more is known. A Towson University graduate, Marisa was just finishing her first-semester studying clinical counseling at Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia. She was following in the footsteps of several other Harris family members, many of whom were actually psychologists. As it happens, she was actually very cut out for it.
The would-be counselor had even gone so far as to take a college course abroad, studying in Budapest. Her ultimate goal was to parlay that learning experience into a career devoted to helping children. Those who knew her, including her teachers, considered her to be a caring, compassionate, genuine person.
Lisa Jackson-Cherry, was Marisa’s professor at Marymount “Marisa came across as a very caring and compassionate student,” she explains. “Someone who wanted to help others who were either disadvantaged or needed more assistance to work through mental distress,” Ironically, she was actually well-trained to help someone like the boy who’d jumped.
Yes, the irony in all of this was that Marisa, who had an absolute love of children, would have been the exact type of person that troubled boy needed to talk him off of a ledge in the first place. This grim irony was not lost upon the family and it’s that irony and Leigh Miller, her mother, and Patrick Harris, are tiring to come to terms with now.
As for the boy’s family, they are similarly stunned by the fact that he would even attempt to do anything like this. His uncle, Jackie Benson, spoke to News4 about the incident. “I don’t know what happened,” he explained. Adding that the family was not aware that he had any sort of problems.
His uncle had noticed some peculiarities, but nothing to raise an alarm about. A lonesome child, the boy would often walk around the neighborhood by himself. His uncle simply assumed he was just getting some time to himself. Unbeknownst to all of his family members, the boy’s often took him perilously close to the overpass from whence he’d eventually plunge.
No Time to Ask
The boy and his family actually lived near Thoreau Middle School, also less than a mile from the I-66 overpass. Even if they had noticed that his lonely walks had become that much more desperate, no one would have had time to ask him what he intended to do. It seemed the suicide attempt came quite without warming; leaving only sadness and loss in its wake.
Telling the World
Upon hearing of her death, Marymount University wanted to make sure that they paid Marisa the proper respect. School officials informed students of her death via a mass email with a statement. It read, “Every student contributes immeasurably to the community we create together at Marymount University. The loss of any student, particularly in so heartbreaking a manner, grieves us all,”
Oddly enough, Marisa’s death has raised awareness about a number of things. Most important of all seems to be minding one’s surroundings when one is out driving. AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman Tom Calcagani even released a statement to the same effect. “It shows us again that we all need to be conscious of what’s around us,” Calcagani explains.
At this point, the boy’s attempt has also raised safety questions about the overpass itself. Though there is some fencing on the Cedar Lane overpass, it currently only extends above the Metro tracks that run between lanes of traffic. This is because the overpass was built in 1963 when no one thought fences should be required all the way.
At the time, the overpass met all of the requirements and standards of the time. Today, the fence would have to be built all the way around in case of accidents. Not just for liability purposes either, but because the way that people think about such commonplace pieces of architecture has also changed.
Not the Point
It’s a sign of the times if one thinks about it. Suicides among young teens are up greatly in the years since social media became the main means on Internet intercommunications and so even those designing the infrastructure must take precautions. Hopefully, the boy will recover and get the help he needs, without suffering from guilt about the life ended by his first failed attempt.
Meanwhile, Marisa’s family and friends continue to remember her fondly as the well-traveled, well-meaning person that she was. “She was fearless,” describes Patrick Harris, “She was absolutely fearless…She was loved by her friends, she was dearly loved by her family, she was admired by her peers, she was just a shining star.”