A 9:11 of a Different Kind

I have seen something else under the sun:
The race is not to the swift
or the battle to the strong,
nor does food come to the wise
or wealth to the brilliant
or favor to the learned;
but time and chance happen to them all.

–Ecclesiastes 9:11

Last Friday, 39-year-old Darren Spurlock was having a delightful lunch with his wife Kelly and their two young sons, Ben and James. It was like any number of such lunches that were no doubt occurring at the same time; family members meeting working Dads and Moms at various bistros throughout Huntsville, sharing some laughs, making plans for upcoming vacations, eating outdoors and basking in the warmth of the early summer sun.

Ben and James saw the potential for more father-son fun and made their move.

“Pleeeease come home and play with us, Daddy!” they pleaded.

He was no doubt sorely tempted. But remembering the remaining work on his desk back at Marshall Space Flight Center on Redstone Arsenal, he knew he couldn’t indulge their little boy wishes.

“I’ll be home soon,” he promised, and he hugged and kissed them goodbye. He climbed into his Toyota Camry and started back toward the Arsenal.

Meanwhile, several miles away, drug agents with the Madison-Morgan County Strategic Counterdrug (STAC) team were serving warrants in the area of Patton and McVay roads when they noticed two women carrying out what appeared to be a drug transaction. When confronted, the two women jumped into their car and fled.

The agents in their unmarked cars, joined now by regular units from the Huntsville Police Department, pursued the two onto South Memorial Parkway. The suspects sideswiped a car, injuring its passenger, near Airport Road and the old Ramada Inn. They continued down the Parkway, hung a hard right on Martin Road, and headed straight toward the concrete barriers at Gate 1 of Redstone Arsenal at an extremely high rate of speed.

Although police apparently made an attempt to contact the guards at the gate, there was little time to react. When the suspects reached the gate, they “slowed down” to 30-40 mph and threaded their way through the concrete barrier, clipping it and leaving behind their bumper. One witness said it seemed like their car “was almost on two wheels” as it crashed the gate.

The stunned security guards waved the pursuing agents and police onto the federal facility in accordance with a mutual agreement with the City of Huntsville and local law enforcement agencies.

From there the chase apparently continued across four miles of the Arsenal, past dingy, decades-old government buildings and rocket-testing pads and through long stretches of pine-studded woods. The suspects finally neared Marshall Space Flight Center where they T-boned Spurlock’s Camry at the corner of Martin and Rideout Roads.

He died at the scene. His vehicle struck another car, injuring a couple who fortunately suffered only minor injuries. The driver of the fleeing vehicle, 35-year-old Valerie Cox, survived but received a broken neck. Her passenger, 36-year-old Paulette Woodall, was treated for minor injuries at Huntsville Hospital and released and subsequently jailed.

Later that evening, Marshall Center Director David King sent an email to NASA employees notifying them of a tragic and untimely death within their family.

A few hours later, a minister for the Mayfair Church of Christ did the same thing.

  1. Mike the Eyeguy

    FYI, I just received this message from Mayfair:

    “Several have asked how they could best contribute to the EDUCATIONAL FUND established for Ben and James Spurlock. This fund was set up through friends and work associates of the family in honor of Darren. Kelly has reqestted donations be made to this fund in lieu of flowers and other contributions. If you would like to contribute to this fund, you may:
    Make check payable to: College America
    In memo field: Spurlock Education Fund

    Mail to:
    First Financial Group
    400 Meridian Street, Ste.100
    Huntsville, AL 35801

    or make your check payable to: Mayfair Church of Christ (or deliver to any elder, minister or office personnel)

    In memo field: Spurlock Education Fund

    Mail to:
    Mayfair Church of Christ
    1095 Carl T. Jones Dr.
    Huntsville, AL 35802

    All funds received by Mayfair will be forwarded to the Spurlock Educational Fund.

  2. cg

    A number of scriptures comes to mind, “No man knows the day or hour…, Life is but a vapor…” A very wise man once said “Live each day as if it were your last, because one day will be.” This tragedy is another ever-present reminder that we are all only visitors here. May God bless the Spurlock family.

  3. Hal

    How terribly tragic. I can’t imagine the utter sorrow felt by the Spurlock family. May God bless and comfort them.

  4. bpb

    Do you personally know this family? I work at Marshall Space Flight Center and our office was directly involved in the events last Friday. Mr. Spurlock had only worked out here for a few weeks, but this has affected all of us. So very tragic!

  5. Mike the Eyeguy

    bpb, no I didn’t, but his wife and sons attend Mayfair, so I know who they are. She told that story about their final lunch together to our minister who related it to us this past Sunday.

    My condolences to you and all my NASA friends, and, of course, to Kelly, Ben, James and all of Darren’s family.

  6. mmlace

    So sorry to hear of your church family’s loss, Dr. Eyeguy.

  7. Stoogelover

    A horrible, needless tragedy.

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