It was overcast and still quite dark that morning, Sept. 27, when the three women parked their cars at Three Corners Market, put on reflective vests and checked the batteries in their headlamps. Maggie, Jessie's dog, had her flashing collar turned on as usual. Then they headed out running north toward Arcata on the wide west shoulder of Old Arcata Road, facing traffic -- using best runners' practices.
Pretty much every Thursday, unless someone had a temporary runner's injury, the women met to run -- for companionship and joy, and to train for their next big run, in this case, the Humboldt Redwoods Marathon later this month. They had a lot in common -- married with two young children each. All were teachers, two preschool, one a part-time university lecturer. Thursdays were road days, Three Corners north for a five- or eight-mile loop before their busy days really began. On Tuesdays, they ran in the forest, and weekends were reserved for longer, leisurely runs in the Arcata Marsh and out on the Arcata Bottom, sometimes the Hammond Trail, wherever in nature.
That Thursday they had gone just under a mile, just south of Ole Hansen Road, when all three women were run down by the driver of a 2005 Kia who fled the scene. (As of print deadline Tuesday, there was no official word regarding the "person on interest" taken into custody Friday, or any other suspects. See our blog for an update.) Suzanne "Suzie" Seemann was killed at the scene. Terri Vroman-Little and Jessica Hunt were seriously injured -- Terri with a broken leg, scrapes and bruises, and wrist injury; Jessie with a broken leg, foot and scapula and a lung injury. They are recovering but have no memory of the accident after leaving the market that morning, according to Tasha Souza, a professor at HSU, who is a fellow runner and friend of all three.
I've known the Seemann family for 40 years. Suzie's late father-in-law, Howard Seemann, was my professor in the early 1970s and his wife Ann, a dear friend. Her sons, Hank and Luke, and our daughters played together as toddlers while their parents spent hours in conversation at the dinner table.
All our children grew up, went to college and started their own wonderful families and interesting careers far from Humboldt. But Hank came home six years ago to take over as environmental services director for the county. He brought his wife Suzie and baby son Malcolm. Daughter Evelyn was born here.
I met Suzie only a few times. Smart and kind, a patient mom with a dazzling smile. I had no idea she was such an accomplished scientist until I read her obituary.
I don't think it's just because I know the family that the grief seems so profound. I was visiting a friend at St. Joseph Hospital Monday and I stopped to talk to a veteran nurse. She had tears in her eyes when she spoke of the three families and their friends. She said she didn't even know them.
"It's so tragic. These are all very special people," District Attorney Paul Gallegos told me Tuesday. "Of course it's tragic no matter who it is, but these women are loved by so many -- people at HSU, in the teaching community, in county government. It's just very sad."
There will be a memorial for Suzie Seemann Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at Freshwater School.