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Colleagues, community honor Mark McLaughlin at memorial service

By Gary Larson, Senior Editor
Transportation Community Relations

Emotions ran deep and wide Tuesday as colleagues and the community mourned the death of slain Metro bus driver Mark McLaughlin, celebrated his life, and honored his professionalism and that of other transit operators.

"As the bus moved along, I'd look out the window and see people with teary eyes," said Ryerson Base operator Harold Davis, one of perhaps thousands who rode in the 80-vehicle procession before the memorial service for Mark. "Seeing people weeping was moving. Looking at people along the way, watching them watch us made tears bubble in my eyes, made my heart cry.

"I had never known something like this to happen for a bus driver," said Davis, a 17-year transit operator now detailed to the Public Safety Partnership program. "I had only seen it done for police officers and firefighters. It was an emotional event for me, to have the privilege to be a member of the procession."

Besides Metro buses and vans, transit vehicles joined the procession from other Pacific Northwest transit agencies, including Grays Harbor, Island County, Kitsap County, Pierce Transit and Community Transit in Washington; Salem, Ore.; and Vancouver, B.C. Seattle firefighters stood by their fire engines in solemn salute to all transit operators as the procession passed by.

And at the memorial service in KeyArena, Davis' emotions ran the gamut, as they did for the estimated 5,000 members of the audience from Metro, other King County divisions, other transit agencies and the community Mark served.

"The bagpipes were very moving to me, especially when they played 'Amazing Grace,'" Davis said. "I applied it to when I was going to church, where it was sung every time someone had passed on. I got flashbacks of that." The Greater Seattle Pipe Band performed at both the beginning and end of the service.

"Gunnar's musical tribute to Mark with the Jimi Hendrix song, 'Wind Cries Mary,' meant a lot," said Davis, a fellow musician. "It's a somber song, very emotional, but Gunnar's humor changed the atmosphere and helped us rejoice."

Former transit operator Gunnar Goerlitz, now working on Metro's SmartCard project, performed the song in recognition of Mark's long-time fan worship for the Seattle-born guitar virtuoso. And an employee group, Men Without Kilts & Lasses Fair, sang an old Welsh song, "All Through the Night."

"I also liked Patty Murray's speech, the family theme she spoke of," Davis said. "And I liked it when Mary Collins talked about the different tidbits that Mark had done the bubble gum, the Halloween lips, candy canes at Christmas for kids -- as a giving, thoughtful-type of person."

"The entire community knows him now and is saddened by his loss," said U.S. Sen. Murray. "Mark McLaughlin reminds each of us that we need to take time out in our lives to say, 'thank you.'"

Collins, who worked with Mark as his North Base chief, said she wanted to believe he was thinking of others, as he always did, even while trying to control the bus after the shooting "as a hero whose memory leaves me with a smile."

County Executive Ron Sims implored the crowd to celebrate Mark's life: "There should be no dirges or Requiems. This is a person who loved life!" And the aroused audience followed Sims' dramatic lead when he coaxed them, "I want you to give a shout for Mark McLaughlin so he can hear it from heaven."

Other speakers included Transit General Manager Rick Walsh, who praised Mark's commitment to customer service, and Stan Green -- a fellow transit operator, basketball player and good friend -- who said, "Mark did the best he could at a very tough job."

In addition, County Council Chair Louise Miller read a signed proclamation paying homage to Mark. Barry Samet and Glen Travis, president and vice president of Local 587 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, guided the service their union sponsored and organized.

"We are a family," Samet said. "When we are on the job, we are truly brothers and sisters."

And Mark's brother, Mike, gave humorous, touching insights into the sibling, son and father only he knows.

"I didn't know Mark, but I have seen him around," said Harold Davis after the service, "like when I went to North Base for union matters, or when I passed him on the street and we'd wave."

But he was moved to tears again as the service ended, when the King County Sheriff's Honor Guard presented American flags to Mark's family and again after the playing of "Taps," when the Metro Control Center said loudly over the KeyArena public address system: "Operator 2106 Operator 2106 Operator 2106 is now out of service."

Updated: Dec. 11, 1998

Remembering Mark McLaughlin
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