Pupils turn earth to work out anguish Garden honors girl, boy, mother killed in accident

April 19, 1993|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writer

News of the deaths of little Andrea and Justin Morrison and their mother, Darlene, in a January car accident hit the close-knit community of Davidsonville hard.

In the months since, pupils at Davidsonville Elementary School and their parents, struggling to work through feelings of grief and anguish, have sought peace in nature.

Next to the school is the result: a beautiful garden 25 feet by 30 feet in size that features a weeping cherry tree already in bloom, several 8- to 10-foot evergreens, walking paths, benches and a memorial stone honoring the family.

Marshaled by Betsy Steel-Burgner, an area landscaper whose children knew Andrea and Justin, other parents donated their landscaping talents and materials and taught the youngsters how to plant annuals and perennials -- including 200 tulip bulbs, just now sprouting from the earth.

"A garden is representative of the cycle of life and death," Mrs. Steel-Burgner said. "We put many of the plants and bulbs in during a barren, cold time, and now it's springtime and they're blooming.

"The children from third and fourth grades came out in half-hour shifts to plant -- they basically gave up their lunch to do it. It was a tender moment."

Mrs. Steel-Burgner, who owns the Picture Hill Inc. landscaping company, suggested the garden when Principal Jeanne Paglee was trying to come up with a way for the Davidsonville pupils to cope with the loss.

"I suggested planting a tree, but one mother wrote and said 'Why not do a whole garden?' " Mrs. Paglee recalled.

"It's just beautiful. She got everyone involved."

At 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, the students plan to have a ceremony dedicating the miniature park, which sits between the school and the athletic fields.

"Andrea and Justin played the violin, so a couple of violin students are going to play something, and we're going to sing some songs," Mrs. Paglee said.

Third-grader Andrea, fourth-grader Justin and their 37-year-old mother were killed in a Jan. 16 car accident.

Glenn Morrison got the news that his family had died that Saturday after rushing home past the accident scene in the westbound lanes of U.S. 50.

Three hours had passed since Justin's call to say they were on their way to the father's Greenbelt office.

He didn't know until later that his family's van, which had been stopped behind a disabled truck about noon, had been rammed from behind by a tractor-trailer before bursting into flames.

"It's a bittersweet story, but I'm proud to say the community really worked together on this," said Mrs. Steel-Burgner.

"In a time of recession, everyone gave of themselves, gave their time and gave materials."

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