News Stories

Odenton teen survives 2012 car crash, connects with past, eyes future

By Airman 1st Class Crystal Housman | Defense Information School | January 05, 2016

FORT MEADE, Md. --

Fourteen-year-old Kendall L. Mountain, of Odenton, was wearing flip-flops when his older brother, Marcus A. Anderson, invited him to hang out on a Saturday night.

It was Sept. 8, 2012, and some of Marcus’ friends were having a party. Flip-flops were not appropriate for going out, Marcus insisted, and he drove the teenager home to put shoes on.

With Kendall now properly dressed and riding in the front passenger seat of his big brother’s sedan, Marcus, 27, offered the youth some advice beyond the realm of fashion.

“He was talking to me about the people that I influence myself with, the people that I admire, and that I need to stop hanging out,” Kendall said.

The baby of a blended family and youngest of six, Kendall said he wasn’t always listening when his mother told him to do things. Marcus had taken notice, and that night in the car he talked to Kendall about it.

“I want you to go to school, get your grades and do right,” Marcus told him.

As they rounded a bend along Eighth Avenue in Glen Burnie -- about 9 miles away from Kendall’s house -- the car collided head-on with a white Maryland Transit Administration passenger bus that was headed to Annapolis.

“I don’t remember what happened right before the impact, but I can tell you that I looked up,” Kendall said of the crash.

In his mind, he can still see bus passengers and the female bus driver’s face, he said.

Kendall suffered two broken arms, a broken leg and a traumatic brain injury, his father said. After the crash, he was listed in stable condition at the pediatric trauma center of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

He had survived.

Three days later, his parents told him that Marcus had not.

Three years have passed. Kendall is now 17 and a student at Meade Senior High School here. He is following the advice his big brother gave him before they rounded the bend that night, and as he transitions to adulthood, there are signs that Marcus is with him on the journey.

Kendall stands 5 feet 4 inches tall. His goldenrod polo shirt has all three buttons buttoned, but the shirt is untucked and hangs out over a skinny 115-pound frame. On both of his forearms, a few half-inch long dark pink scars raise slightly above his chocolate-colored skin. They are the only visible signs of the metal screws and plates doctors used to put his bones back together.

Baggy black pants bunch up at his ankles and rest on the black kitchen clogs he works in as a mess attendant at the Freedom Inn Dining Facility here. A brown hairnet stretches around the top of teen’s dreadlocks, which fall even with his square-shaped jaw. The dreadlocks aren’t as long as his brother’s, but he’s working on it, Kendall said. His black baseball cap loses its shape as it tries to rein in the do.

The dining facility position is his first job. It was no surprise to him, he said, because it was the same place Marcus had worked. His sister was already working there when Kendall started in April, and his oldest brothers once worked there, too.

“I always knew I was going to work here,” Kendall said. “I just never knew when.”

Kendall, just like his siblings, was hired by his father.

Howard E. Mountain, a retired Army staff sergeant, started working at the dining facilities here in September 1995, a few years before Kendall was born. Mountain is the project manager for Son’s Quality Food Company, which has the contract to operate the Freedom Inn. He is considered an executive chef and oversees the dining facility.

Sometimes when Mountain had to work late at the Freedom Inn, young Kendall would be in tow. The facility’s employees have watched Kendall grow up and have known him long before the teen donned the facility’s signature uniform shirt, he said.

“Every time I would bring him in, they would be like, ‘My, you’re getting grown,’” Mountain said while sitting in the same office where Kendall would sometimes do his homework.

Pinned to the wall in Mountain’s office, just to the right of his chair, are two reminders of another son who donned the goldenrod polo.

Photos of Marcus show a stocky man in his early 20s with dreadlocks down to his shoulders. A program from his funeral service also hangs on the wall.

Like Kendall, Marcus also got his first job as a mess attendant at the Freedom Inn when he was in high school, Mountain said. His fourth was attending culinary school and had worked his way up to grill cook at the Freedom Inn when the accident happened, Mountain said.

Kendall’s duties as a mess attendant are wide-ranging. He works behind the scenes, cleaning pots, putting dishes away, keeping soda machines filled and condiment dispensers cleaned. He works with many of the same people Marcus did, he said, and they are all close.

“Because they used to work together back there, it kinda felt like I was him, like I was moving into his shoes here,” Kendall said.

Kendall is working there 25 to 30 hours a week, including three days after school and 10 hours each on Saturday and Sunday.

On that drive three years ago, Marcus told him to stop hanging out. Now he doesn’t have the time or the desire to do that, Kendall said.

“Very little have I been hanging out because I have been preoccupied with work and school and staying on top of my grades,” Kendall said.

The teen is doing what his big brother told him to.

A midterm progress report Kendall recently got shows A’s and high B’s in all his classes, Mountain said. From American Sign Language to English and math, his grades are good. If they slip, so will his hours at the Freedom Inn, Mountain said.

Midway through his senior year, Kendall is spending his paychecks on sneakers, clothes and video games, but he is focused on the future, he said. He is eyeing a marketing program at a local community college and plans to transfer to a university after that. He wants to be an entrepreneur.

Mountain, who describes Kendall as a generally respectful young man who still talks back a little more than he would like, has seen his youngest son mature during his time at the dining facility.

“I think being here and having this job has given him a little bit more focus,” Mountain said.

Kendall is in his seventh month at the Freedom Inn and has no plans to stop working. He says it’s different now; something changed. He is no longer filling Marcus’ shoes.

“It felt like I was moving from him to myself,” Kendall said. “Now I’m just working here because it’s me now.”

Kendall says that while not all of his decisions fall in line with Marcus’ advice, he still thinks his big brother would be proud.        

“I’m doing better in school, I got a job, and I’m working,” he said. “I think he’d be very proud of what I’ve accomplished now.”