WASHINGTON — After a 13-year-old Fairfax County girl was fatally struck by a train in Virginia, her mother is remembering her as a fearless girl with a bright smile.
A Virginia Railway Express train hit and killed Reyhan Safoglu Wednesday while she was out on a hike with her 21-year-old brother and 13-year-old cousin.
Reyhan’s mother, Emel Safoglu of Burke, said the two teens made the tragic mistake of getting onto a rail bridge in rural Clifton, Virginia. Seconds after making that choice, the mother said they heard the horn of an oncoming train.
“And they started running — her cousin said run, and then he jumped and he told her to jump, too,” Emel said.
Reyhan didn’t jump and was struck by the train. She died at the scene, according to police.
At first, her son tried to carry his sister to the car after wrapping her head with his T-shirt, the mother said. He then stopped and called Emel, who was at a funeral for a friend in Rockville.
“The next thing I know, I’m getting a phone call from my son saying his sister’s dead, Reyhan’s dead, Reyhan’s dead, just screaming,” the single mother of two said.
“We were three people, we were Three Musketeers. We were so tight,” she added. “And now, we’re two.”
The heartbroken mother said what happened to her daughter was an accident, and she doesn’t want anybody to blame themselves for what happened.
“I don’t want my son, or her cousin, or the conductor or anybody to feel like it’s their fault.”
Emel said she believes it was her daughter’s time. But Reyhan didn’t waste a moment, according to the mother.
Reyhan loved the outdoors and being active, she said. The seventh grader at Lake Braddock Secondary School played many sports, was a member of a cheer squad, and still had time to be in the choir, orchestra and to teach herself ukulele, Emel recalled.
“It was almost like she knew her time here on Earth was short.”
Since her daughter’s death, Emel believes Reyhan’s spirit is still around; one sign, she said, was a firefly that flew into her house hours after the accident. Reyhan loved fireflies and this one, the mother said, flew up to her.
“I was like ‘Reyhan, hi Reyhan, I love you. It’s OK, just go to heaven, honey. It’s OK; we’re going to join you there soon,’ and then, it just flew away.”
The support from the community after the tragedy has been overwhelming, Emel said. After the accident, two online fundraisers were set up by friends and family, raising enough money for the mom to bury Reyhan and give her daughter the celebration Emel believes she deserves.