Another Sad Day in Boston

Boston has been a very sad town lately. On a personal note, last Friday, one of downtown Boston's greatest Irish pubs forever closed it's doors. Tiernen's, a favorite Boston haunt is no longer. My friend is writing a story on it for the Weekly Dig, and I have received countless e-mails from cronies who are saddened by this loss.

But, that's nothing compared to yesterday's tragic events. Yesterday really saddened me, and I want to take a moment to pay homage to a woman I don't even know.

Yesterday, the Big Dig (one of our nation's largest pork barrel projects) took the life of a 38 year old woman, Milena DelValle. She was a recent newlywed who was crushed by the concrete panels which fell from the ceiling of the tunnel. Her husband managed to crawl out of the crushed body of their Buick, but unfortunately, she was in the direct path of the falling debris.

The purpose of writing this is not to sling accusations at the MTA, the builders of the Big Dig, Amarello or Mitt Romney. The press is taking care of that. I really just want to remember Milena DelValle, a woman who was too young to die.

Concrete falls, and a couple's joy is destroyed
By Maria Cramer and John R. Ellement, Boston Globe Staff | July 12, 2006

It sounded like thunder, he said. Angel Del Valle was driving through the Interstate 90 connector at about 10:45 Monday night, his wife, Milena, at his side, to pick up his brother at Logan International Airport. Suddenly, in front of him, the ceiling began to give way. The noise was deafening. He slammed on the brakes of his Buick sedan, but it was too late. Huge chunks of concrete and steel came crashing down on his car, nearly flattening it.

Dazed, but conscious, he pulled himself out of the window on the smashed driver's side and went to try to help free his wife. But debris surrounded the car and the passenger side was crushed, preventing him from prying open her door. He could not get to her.

``It was impossible," he said yesterday, as his sister, Ines, wept nearby. ``I wanted to do the impossible."

Angel Del Valle, 46, stood outside a relative's house in Dorchester yesterday afternoon, holding a picture of his wife on their wedding day two years ago. They had met two years before that, at a Jamaica Plain church service. Immediately upon seeing her, Del Valle knew he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.

``She was the woman of my life," he said, speaking in Spanish. ``And she continued to be until God took her away from me."

Nursing a purple bruise on his forehead from the accident, he spoke of his final moments with his wife, a 38-year-old Costa Rican immigrant who arrived in the United States about five years ago.

The couple were driving to Logan to pick up his brother, Francisco, who was returning from a trip to Puerto Rico, where Angel Del Valle was born. As they drove into the tunnel connector, Del Valle said he could see the chunks of concrete fall a few feet in front of him. He never heard his wife scream, only the sounds of concrete falling on his car.

``They came, one on top of the other," he said. ``It all happened so fast, I can't even understand what happened."

Yesterday afternoon, more than 12 hours after the accident, he still hadn't slept. He seemed tormented that he was unable to rescue her. He had crouched in front of the car and told Milena he would take care of her children.

``We were together for four years," he said. ``They were short, but very happy. That's why I feel so [destroyed] . . ."

Still, one of his few consolations, he said, was that his wife probably felt very little, if any, pain. He believes that Milena died immediately.

``Thank God, she didn't suffer," he said.

Angel Del Valle, who was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital after the accident, suffered minor injuries.

The couple lived in a three-decker apartment on Westerly Street in Jamaica Plain and were always together, neighbors and friends said yesterday. He is a full-time clerk behind the meat counter at Hi-Lo Foods on Centre Street, a supermarket popular with Latino shoppers. Milena Del Valle worked in facility maintenance at Mississippi's Restaurant in Mission Hill. Before that, she occasionally handed out copies of El Planeta, a Brookline-based Spanish weekly newspaper, at Forest Hills T-station in Jamaica Plain and at the Orient Heights station in East Boston.

When Angel Del Valle came home from work, his wife would take off his shoes and socks and rub his feet. He did the cooking. They were seldom apart.

``They were always going out on the weekends, doing laundry," said Rico Figueroa, 35, who lives on the first floor of the apartment. ``They seemed real happy together."

Milena Del Valle occasionally came by Hi-Lo Foods to visit her husband, said Bill Jordan, the store's manager. The chemistry between the couple was obvious, he said.

``I could tell he was crazy about her," he said. ``You could see the connection there. They were always smiling at each other."

The couple did not have children together, but Milena Del Valle had three adult children living in Costa Rica. She had left her family to find a job that would help support her mother, two sons, and daughter. Her ultimate goal was for the children to move to the United States. Until then, she hoped to make enough money to help her daughter start an ice cream shop, Del Valle said. She attended Sunday services at Hispanic Community Church of Boston on Seaverns Avenue in Jamaica Plain for the last two years, where her husband was also active, said the Rev. Lisa De Paz, a pastor.

``She was a wonderful woman who always wanted to give herself to the church," De Paz said. ``She tried to help people, working the coffee hour in the church. She was very, very involved with the life of the church."

Shortly before 3 p.m. yesterday, just before rain began to fall, two State Police cruisers and a black sedan pulled up to the Dorchester home of Angel Del Valle's relatives, not far from Blue Hill Avenue. The entourage was escorting Matthew J. Amorello, chairman of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, who left his vehicle and approached Del Valle's relatives to offer condolences. The visit occurred at about the same time that Governor Mitt Romney was calling for Amorello's ouster during a State House press conference, saying the public had lost confidence in the safety of the tunnel project. Amorello hugged some of Del Valle's relatives. His head lowered, the turnpike chairman ignored a reporter's questions and walked away.

Maria Cramer can be reached at mcramer@globe.com. Globe correspondent Yuxing Zheng contributed to this report.


Blogger Kala said...

hey you! I admitted did not read the whole thing - just up to your comments - but I heard about this on the news and the cost of the project to build this thing only to see it fail and collapse and kill someone - I guess young or old - a life taken before its due is quite sad but I like that you took all the time to post this in remembrance of a sad tragedy - I wonder the state of the husband and wish all those involved well and hope for better days.

miss reading your posts - so caught up with other things in life but hopefully I will be passing thru again more regularly =)

4:47 AM


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