After `what ifs,' fear remains

Heroes: Danielle and Derrick Fortune's quick thinking got their mother emergency treatment after she was seriously injured by a thrown rock.

September 04, 1999|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Over and over in her mind, Lynn McKissic replays the events that led to last week's tragedy: her early morning drive, an open window in her van, a thrown rock.

What if the 33-year-old Columbia woman, a single mother of four who delivers newspapers for The Sun, had rolled up the van's driver's-side window as she usually does because of her fear of bats?

What if McKissic hadn't finished her delivery route that morning so early, arriving at Dobbin and Oakland Mills roads at 4: 25 a.m.?

McKissic, who is beginning rehabilitation at Mariner Health of Greater Laurel, said she has answered her own questions.

"After I did all of the `what ifs,' I'm glad that I didn't close my window, because I might've gotten cut by the glass in the throat," she said yesterday. "And I would've eventually been on that street [to get home]."

McKissic suffered several broken bones in her face and is blind in her right eye and has partial sight in her left eye. It's not clear whether she will recover fully from those injuries, doctors say. The one thing McKissic said she will never forget is the courage and strength displayed by two of her children who were helping her deliver newspapers at the time of the incident Aug. 26.

Danielle and Derrick Fortune said they remember that the day began like every other day this summer. Danielle, 13, and Derrick, 12, woke up at 2 a.m. with their mother and left their apartment in Wilde Lake Village 30 minutes later.

They drove to the Sun distribution warehouse on Rumsey Road in the Oakland Ridge Industrial Park to load the day's allotment of newspapers.

Derrick packed the papers in bags and loaded them onto a cart, and Danielle wheeled the cart to their mother waiting in the van.

They finished about 3: 30 a.m. and set out to deliver the newspapers to 350 homes and businesses in the Snowden River Parkway area near Owen Brown Village.

McKissic said she remembers finishing the route about 30 minutes earlier than usual. As she eased the van to the intersection of Dobbin and Oakland Mills roads, she told her children to lie down in the back and get some rest.

McKissic said she rolled her window down because she felt warm. As she prepared to turn right from Dobbin Road onto Oakland Mills Road, she quickly glanced to her left.

"The next thing I remember is screaming and not being able to see anything because of the blood in my eyes and letting go of the steering wheel and everything else," McKissic said.

Derrick, who minutes earlier had been told by his mother to keep quiet, said he felt his mother hitting him.

"I said, `What are you hitting me for?' " Derrick recalled yesterday from the living room in his grandmother's apartment in Long Reach Village. "Then I saw the blood, first on the steering wheel, then on her."

Danielle said she knew something was wrong when she heard her brother's screams. When she saw the wounds on her mother's face, she quickly remembered something she had learned from one of her favorite television shows, "ER."

"I was telling my mom that I needed to put pressure on it so that the blood could stop," Danielle said.

As his sister helped their mother, Derrick grabbed the steering wheel.

"I was telling [Danielle] to roll up the window because I thought Mom got shot," he said. "She [his mother] pushed the pedal and I turned us around and drove us to the gas station."

At the gas station, Derrick banged on the attendant's window to wake the employee and ask to use the phone. After he called 911, he called his grandmother.

"It was Derrick screaming, `Something is wrong with Mommy, something is wrong with Mommy,' " recalled Alexia McKissic, Derrick and Danielle's grandmother. "I could hear Lynn screaming in the background, and it made my blood cold. My stomach went into knots."

Two days later, Derrick found the rock in the van. It was larger than a softball and pointed like a pyramid, he said. It was turned in to police.

Howard County Police Department spokesman Sgt. Morris Carroll said police are investigating the incident. He said there were reports of four rock-throwing cases near the Dobbin-Oakland Mills intersection since July 26.

Alexia McKissic is furious that someone would try to hurt her daughter, who before the incident had to worry only about ink smudges on her hands.

Lynn McKissic said she is angry, too, but that her anger has become fear.

"That was the safest part of my day," she said of delivering newspapers in the morning. "Right now, I'm fearful of everything."

A reward totaling $2,000 is being offered for information leading to an arrest in the incident. Call the Howard County Police Department at 410-313-3700.

Pub Date: 9/04/99

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