Family, friends gather to remember Green Party candidate
Crowds gather for vigil in Largo at the spot where SUV hit U.S. Senate hopeful
Natasha Pettigrew's mother Kenniss Henry said if her daughter saw all the people gathered to remember her life she would be overwhelmed.
"Mom you didn't have to," Henry of Cheverly said she imagined Pettigrew would say to her. "Why are you doing this?"
Crowds of people came to a Sept. 24 candlelight vigil in a Prince George's Community College parking lot in Largo to remember Pettigrew, 30, who was struck from behind by an SUV while biking about 5:30 a.m. Sept. 19 at the intersection of Campus Way and Route 202. She died from her injuries the next day.
The driver, Christy Littleford, 41, of Upper Marlboro told police she thought she had hit a deer. Littleford found Pettigrew's bicycle underneath her vehicle upon returning home. Littleford has not been charged as of this morning.
Pettigrew was also preparing for a U.S. Senate race as a Green Party candidate against Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.).
For every turn Henry made, a hug from a friend, a co-worker or a friend of a friend followed. Those same people who embraced Henry formed a circle outside a table where pictures of Natasha and a bouquet of purple flowers stood.
A Tupperware bin of Pettigrew's green campaign pins which read, "Vote Natasha for Senate, November 2, 2010. People Powered! Not Corporate Owned!" stood on the right side.
Pettigrew's cousin, Roland Henry of Oxon Hill, said Pettigrew was his first cousin, best friend and a special person throughout her entire life.
"I guess she never really got a chance to show her potential," Roland Henry said.
Kenniss Henry believes if her daughter took office she would have been the voice of the people and that even in her death she continues to influence people to make a difference in the lives of others.
Since Pettigrew's death, Henry said she had heard too many stories from individuals who lost family members in a similar way Pettigrew lost her life as a bicyclist. Henry said she intends to take her fight to make the roads safer for bicyclists to the Maryland General Assembly in Annapolis and Congress on Capitol Hill.
"We have to do more than this [vigil] and just walk off," Henry said. "We have to be able to say 'Annapolis, here we come.'"
Pettigrew was training for a triathlon before her death and Henry recounted a 2005 triathlon of Pettigrew's in Virginia Beach, Va., shortly after Hurricane Katrina. Even in choppy and dangerous waters she still finished the swimming portion to complete the competition, Henry told the crowd.
"If that's something you love, nobody should take that away from you," Henry said of her daughter's love for triathlons.
Karen Jennings, co-chair of the Maryland Green Party, said Pettigrew was passionate about getting more young people involved in the democratic process and championed issues such as education, health care and holding elected officials accountable for the welfare of their constituents.
"I think she had the potential to be a leader for the Green Party and for Maryland," Jennings said.
Bicyclist Jerry McCallop of Forestville met Pettigrew on a triathlon training ride two years ago at Hains Point in Washington, D.C., and was impressed with the way she kept up and emerged near the front of a pack of 30 riders cycling at 27 mph.
"That determination and fight she had to be riding at that level, I was impressed," McCallop said.
McCallop, a member of District-based bicyclist club Artemis Racing, said he has heard countless stories of hit and runs between motorists and cyclists during his 35 years as a bike rider.
"To drag the bicycle all the way home, that don't make no sense," McCallop said.