Tragic end of a second chance
Community remembers the boy it saw through a bone marrow transplant after he was killed in a car crash
Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2006
The 23-year-old Cabin John resident was riding in the passenger seat of a 1997 Nissan 240 SX traveling east on Horseshoe Lane in Potomac early Saturday morning, police said, when the car left the road and struck a tree. Peterson was pronounced dead at the scene.
The driver was Peterson’s best friend, Kevin Melanson, 22, of the 7700 block of Brick Yard Road in Potomac. He was hospitalized with serious injuries. Police are still investigating the cause of the crash.
Peterson became well-known in the Potomac community when he was 9, as friends and neighbors supported him and his family during months of treatment for aplastic anemia, a rare and serious condition in which bone marrow stops producing enough red and white blood cells to keep the body healthy. Peterson had a bone marrow transplant, provided by his older brother, in 1992.
‘‘At that time, he seemed to belong to all of us,” said his father, Robert Peterson. ‘‘He had the support through the updated articles of love, fund-raising, and through time he made it.”
Marie Godin of Potomac, who was part of the group of neighbors organizing the effort to support the Petersons, remembers scrubbing the inside of the family’s home with soap, water and bleach to prepare for Michael’s return home from the hospital.
‘‘If you know him, you know what a tremendous fighter he was,” Godin said. ‘‘It’s tough for a kid at his age to just get pulled out of life and have the struggle for life that he had. ... It’s just tragic. After struggling for years ... he was in the clear. He was on his way.”
Peterson, described by his father as an athletic, outgoing young man, lived in the 8000 block of MacArthur Boulevard. He worked with his brothers as a freelance soundman for media outlets like the Discovery Channel, ‘‘America’s Most Wanted,” National Geographic and CBS News. Peterson was working on following in the footsteps of his father, a longtime cameraman for CBS on ‘‘60 Minutes.”
‘‘We were taking it step by step,” Robert Peterson said. ‘‘He was getting very good at it.”
Peterson’s surviving family members include his parents, Robert and Michele Peterson, and three brothers, Thomas, 24, James, 26, and Robert, 36. In lieu of flowers, his family has asked for donations in his name to Children’s Hospital, where he spent six months recovering from his bone marrow transplant in 1992 and 1993.
‘‘They’re the ones that saved him,” his father said.
A viewing is scheduled for 3-5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. Saturday at Pumphrey Funeral Home, 7557 Wisconsin Ave. in Bethesda. The family is also planning a celebration of Peterson’s life to be held sometime over the next two to three weeks.
‘‘He was special, very special,” Peterson said. ‘‘He made the usual teenage trips and missteps, but all of them were honestly faced and he was loved by a lot of people.”
Photo courtesy of the Peterson family