With recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, news reports have almost daily told of Americans dying overseas, in service to their country. Mary Anne O?Neill was 72, living in Arlington, but she also died serving her country.
O?Neill made a long career with the U.S. Department of State, filling various positions in U.S. embassies around the world. She died Tuesday, May 6 while crossing Lee Highway near North Nash Street in Rosslyn. On her way to check in at the State Department, O?Neill was hit by a commuter bus heading toward the Rosslyn Metro.
?She had a very long career,? said Geoff O?Neill, her son and only child. ?She was a really great lady.?
Arlington police officers spent hours in the neighborhood of the accident passing out fliers and looking for witnesses. ?We are doing things such as canvassing the neighborhood,? said Matt Martin, a spokesperson for the Police Department.
No charges have been filed against the bus driver, 46-year-old William Larry Smith of Washington, D.C., or the bus owner, Bethany Limousine & Buses, Inc.
Kahalil Kahalil, a consultant for Bethany said as of this week, Smith is still very shaken up. ?He hasn?t been able to work,? said Kahalil, ?And we haven?t been able to ask him, because we don?t want to cause any more aggravations. The driver is really in bad spirits.?
O?NEILL WAS BORN in Ireland and lived in England before coming to Arlington in 1961.
Although she called Arlington home for the rest of her life, she spent long periods of time away. She joined the Foreign Service in 1976, heading to Baghdad for her first post. Later, she served in Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, India, Kuwait and Morocco. Eight years ago she retired from full-time service. But she continued as a ?rover,? filling in whenever an embassy overseas needed additional staff.
?She served in just about every post in the Middle East,? said Geoff O?Neill. ?So she was a real world-class traveler. When she would have free time, she would come visit me.?
He also works for the State Department, currently serving at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. He remembers his mother as a vibrant and adventurous woman, well liked by the people around her.
?My mother was 72, but she was very young for her age. She was very fit and active.? The woman who was stationed on the Arabian Peninsula, in the nation of Qatar, during the Gulf War still had plenty to talk about with her Arlington neighbors. ?She was very popular with her neighbors,? her son said. ?They were always watching out for her when she was gone, and she used to come back and tell them about all the adventures she had had.?
ACCIDENTS LIKE the one that killed O?Neill are rare in Arlington, said Charles Denny, bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for the county?s Department of Public Works. While O?Neill?s death came less than a week after another bus-related death in the District, he said they don?t signal a growing problem.
?At this point I would say that it?s a very sad coincidence,? said Denny, who added that pedestrian safety is a major concern for the county. Pedestrian safety initiatives received about $2 million in funding in the last Capital Improvement Plan.
Curb extensions, better traffic signals and pedestrian countdown signals are a few tools the county is using to try to make sure no one else suffers the fate of Mary Anne O?Neill.
She was laid to rest last Thursday in local funeral service. ?She was a great lady,? said Geoff O?Neill. ?I was able to spend some good years with her.?
Anyone with information on the accident is asked to call the police department at 703-558-2222.