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Sadness from our Beloved Silver Comet Trail

eebee's picture

We have been following a breaking news tragedy here in Metro Atlanta about a 54 year old cyclist who was first missing, then found dead along side the Silver Comet Trail that many of us skaters use. Blake and I just did 40 miles there 12 days ago, even remarking briefly about the spot where it looks like this poor woman, Jennifer Ewing, was killed on Tuesday.

General initial reaction from those of us that use this trail and love it, is of course one of shock. Personally I'm just angry that somebody would do something like this. Many women probably aren't going to go out there now unless they have company, which isn't a bad idea anyway. I only went out there once on a weekday afternoon, and decided it was so empty that I didn't feel safe - even though nobody had been murdered there at that time. I think the only people I saw were the trail maintenance guys on their noisy trail-sweeper machine, and one elderly couple on some very heavy-looking bikes! I realized that most of the world was probably stuck in an office or car somewhere at that time of the week.  

It won't stop me going out there and skating, AND enjoying it, as long as I'm not alone. I hate the way the media is covering this, preying on people's fears to keep them coming back to their website/tv show/newspaper.

Here's what the Atlanta Journal & Constitution has to say about it...

http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/cobb/stories/0727metsilver.html

(the link probably won't work unless you are subscribed, but it's a free subscription)

Since the Silver Comet Trail first opened in 1998, millions of people have biked or walked the 60-mile-long recreational oasis stretching from Cobb County to Alabama. Few, if any, probably thought much about safety as they sped along on Treks and Cannondales, or jogged along in Nikes.Until Wednesday. That's when police found a body believed to be that of Jennifer Ewing, a 54-year-old Sandy Springs mother of three who often rode 50 miles in a day. 

The apparent homicide victim was discovered 40 feet off the trail, near mile marker 17 between Hiram and Dallas, after she did not come home Tuesday. Black spandex riding shorts were found atop a patch of kudzu nearby. As the news broke of the killing, believed to be the first homicide on the trail, fear set in. Never again, some said, would trail users cruise casually, blissfully down the concrete and ashphalt ribbon. "It's kind of frightening. It definitely raises my awareness," said Jean Brogan, a 38-year-old Marietta resident out walking the trail Wednesday afternoon. "It's hard to believe. It's well-lit, well maintained."From now on, she added, "I'll make sure I go walking with a partner.

Her husband, Jim Ewing, had called police. Smyrna police found Jennifer Ewing's gray Honda Odyssey in a parking lot at a trail head near Nickajack Elementary School. As family and friends grieved their loss, they remembered a special woman.The victim's 26-year-old son, Jim Ewing, spoke late Wednesday afternoon in front of the family home. "All of you who knew Mom know that she is responsible for every good thing our family has done or ever will do," he said. "She inspired us all. We had hoped and prayed for a happy outcome, but instead we are faced with this tragedy." He asked that the killers be caught and prosecuted "to the fullest extent of the law."

Comments

Jack's picture

Silver Comet Tragedy

How very sad and infuriating. Such a shame that a place so seemingly benign could be used so savagely. May her passing be not in vain..

Jack

roadskater's picture

Silver Comet Trail Safety and Funding Chief Ladiga Connection

All of this comes after some nice news not long ago of a major ($100,000) grant from Coca-Cola to help pave final sections of the Silver Comet Trail and Chief Ladiga Trail and build a state line welcome center of sorts, making this a 90-mile trail from Smyrna (near Atlanta) to Anniston, Alabama.

http://www.wtvm.com/Global/story.asp?S=5077505&nav=8fap

This is an incredibly wonderful place in my life, and it hurts to know something so horrible happened to someone there. From the descriptions, it seems quite a painful and violent struggle. I've been out there alone, one day doing 80 miles, and out there, anyone could have done me in easily I'm sure. I just never really felt it was that likely to happen. And yes, it could happen anywhere, and it's more likely in places I am more often found. But this place is like a church to us, the church of healing sweat, of rejuvenation in nature, of skating away from civilization a bit, to return a few hours later.

Of course we'll still go there, and we'll enjoy it, and we'll remember this woman who just wanted to stay fit as safely as possible. But it is a sorrow to know how brutally her life was taken in such an otherwise peaceful place.

I hope this will lead to good for someone, for many, for the trail, even, for it has helped heal me often, alone and with company.

We will have to make a trip and name it in her honor and if not before then, when the trail is complete, go all the way to Anniston from Smyrna, one day or two, somehow, remembering her.

On another note, they say this happened between Hiram and Dallas, out past mile 17, apparently out past one of my favorite spots where you descend to a bridge over an active railway line that often has coal or other cargo. We've stood there as the train struggled uphill, then noted that once part of the train was over the hill of course, the engines labored less and the train crept along faster. 

We've noticed lately that the trail signs there and back toward Hiram had been vandalized, their nice Plexiglas laminated graphics panels cracked, which would take intent and effort. There's probably no connection except in my mind.

But we also saw a couple of years ago that Paulding County had signs up indicating they had installed cameras along the trail, and saw where cables had been installed, though we never saw the cameras. And we've seen workers out on golf carts riding the trail sometimes, if not too often. I hope there is some video evidence to assist with catching the killer.

Regardless, this is a sad event, and obviously anyone who needed to do this has already likely not had the best life either (which in no way excuses or lessens it), and it multiplies through the victim's family and friends, and in small ripples to the people who'd like to go walk, ride or skate out in the country without fearing for their life.

Yes life goes on for us, and we won't suffer much or long, but not without some loss, and some mourning for this woman, her family, our trail, and of course, for ourselves.

Our concerns and complaints seem small next to this, and even so do our joys, at this moment. The Silver Comet Trail is too wonderful to give away to fear, too healing to never visit again, but will always contain at least a sad shadow memory 30 feet off the trail, down in the dark kudzu below.

eebee's picture

GA Governor Sonny Perdue Encourages Trail Use

Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue made a statement about the trail tragedy, to the effect that he hopes this won't deter people from using the Silver comet Trail and other such outdoorsy exercise places.

From http://www.wsbtv.com/news/9587375/detail.html

"...Jennifer Ewing's horrific experience was an unusual act of violence on an otherwise safe and popular exercise trail. While it is important that we remain vigilant and sharply aware of our surroundings, it is my sincere hope that this tragic situation will not cause citizens to refrain from enjoying the wonderful outdoor assets, like the Silver Comet Trail, that Georgia has to offer."

I think he made a statement partly because of the victim's husband's involvement with GA commerce, but anyway, I'm glad the GA Governor got involved.

roadskater's picture

Heads Up Silver Comet Wildhorse Creek Trail Powder Springs GA

The Silver Comet is safe and awesome, but any trail can be dangerous, so we all need to pay attention and have a plan whenever possible. This one's a bit strange given no burglary.



Man beaten, another accosted near Silver Comet
Atlanta Journal Constitution,  USA
Both incidents happened on the Wildhorse Trail, a 1.5-mile paved path that connects the Silver Comet Trail to Wildhorse Creek Park, Powder Springs police Det. Kelly Gobely said Wednesday. They occurred about a mile off the Silver Comet. ...
Silver Comet Trail Attack News/Talk 750 WSB
Two Men Attacked Near Silver Comet Trail MyFox Atlanta
Man Beaten On Cobb County Hiking Trail WSBtv.com
all 7 news articles
[Trails & Parks]

eebee's picture

Trail

Thanks for posting this. I saw on local news last night that they were going to talk about a 'trail attack' but I fell asleep while they were droning on about the arrest of an assisted-suicide network president. I know where that part of the trail is and it's beautiful, but very secluded.
roadskater's picture

Ouch

Nasty attack by 5 dudes on 1 guy. Seems like these 5 were just out to pick on some people, especially those who might not be able to defend themselves. Arrgh.

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