Jane Bloom was having lunch with a table of artists who had gotten to know each other online during the pandemic. It was a sunny Friday, the first day the Parthenon had opened its patio for outdoor seating, and the women were meeting one another face-to-face for the first time, Bloom’s son said.
As they were placing their orders at the D.C. restaurant, a sport-utility vehicle darted across Connecticut Avenue at full speed, jumped the curb and slammed into a cluster of sidewalk tables filled with diners.
Bloom, 76, was killed, as was another woman, Terese Dudnick Taffer, 73, police said Saturday. Taffer was also involved in the local art scene, though it could not be confirmed whether they were at the same table. Bloom and Taffer both lived about two miles south, in the Cleveland Park neighborhood.
Witnesses described a horrific scene in which one second everyone was enjoying lunch on one of the first warm days of the waning winter, and the next, the SUV barreled onto the sidewalk at 5510 Connecticut Ave NW. Diners seated on the left side of the door were untouched; those on the right were in its direct path.
On Saturday morning, owner Pete Gouskos, who opened the Parthenon 33 years ago, was still stunned by the randomness of the tragedy. One of his waiters was taking an order facing the street and saw the SUV with the split second he needed to jump back. If he had been facing the other way, he would have been directly hit, Gouskos said. The entire table was.
“One minute you’re here; the next minute, gone,” he said. He said he was doing all right, but as his daughter, Stephanie, talked about the family business he built into a staple of the Chevy Chase neighborhood, her father teared up. Looking outside at snow on the ground, he said he wished the weather on Friday had been like that.
Three others hit on the patio were in critical condition, and another three hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries. Three others were treated at the scene and did not require hospitalization, said D.C. fire spokeswoman Jennifer Donelan. Among those seriously injured was Shelton Zuckerman, a real estate developer and co-founder of Sixth & I synagogue in D.C., who remained at George Washington University Hospital on Saturday, said his wife, Rory Kirstein Zuckerman.
The name of the driver and his condition were not released. Duncan Bedlion, a D.C. police commander who runs the 2nd District station, described him as an older man who was alone in the vehicle. He was cooperating with investigators after the crash, and police do not believe his actions were intentional.
Crash investigators determined that, at 12:17 p.m., a gray 2008 Subaru Forester drove south at high speed through a parking lot in the 5500 block of Connecticut. The SUV exited the parking lot, veered south and then north, climbing over the curb outside the Parthenon.
Edward Levin, who was safely seated on the south side of the Parthenon patio, said he witnessed the event. The driver of the SUV was exiting an Exxon gas station across the street and darted across Connecticut and onto the sidewalk, he said.
“The whole thing took less than two seconds,” said Levin, who was having lunch with a friend. “It was like he was shot out of a cannon. If he had gone completely straight he would have gone into the front door, but he swerved to the right and just mowed down all the tables.”
Bloom was a longtime advocate for the rights of refugees and migrants in the United States and around the globe. In 2018, she retired as head of the U.S. office for the International Catholic Migration Commission. In recent days, she was deeply concerned about the fate of Ukrainian refugees and was considering getting involved again, said her son, Joshua Bloom of Berkeley, Calif. “People were still asking for her help.”
Trained as a social worker, Bloom started her career in gerontology and then got involved in refugee resettlement. In 1997, she founded Refugee Works, the training and technical assistance arm for refugee self-sufficiency of the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement. At age 60, she earned a master’s degree in international public policy.
Bloom basked in the work. In a 2018 interview, she recounted that her mother would ask why she wasn’t retiring sooner. And Bloom replied: “Mom, when every day I wake up with joy and can’t wait to get to work, why in the world would I stop?”
Bloom was also an accomplished artist and used some of her time in retirement exploring new media and earning a certification in world art through the Smithsonian. She also taught college courses and worked on her own art, her son said.
“The fact that this happened while she was with new friends, enjoying life, was and is fairly emblematic of who she is and who she was,” he said. “Even though she was 76, I still think she died in the prime of her life.”
She is also survived by a daughter, Rebecca Best, and three grandchildren.
Taffer, known as Terry, was one of four children originally from the Philadelphia area. She attended the University of Michigan, according to her Facebook page, then married and raised two children in the New York City area, living in both suburban New Jersey and Manhattan, public records show.
Taffer studied in France as a college student, and her family enjoyed traveling there, according to several letters she published in the New York Times over the years. She described the family renting a chalet in eastern France as “an unforgettable holiday” and provided tips on how best to see Paris by city bus.
“Terry was a loving mother and grandmother,” said her brother, Robert Dudnick, “and devoted to her family.” She moved to the District in 2019 to be closer to her grandchildren, her brother said.
After moving to Washington, Taffer joined ArtTable, an organization dedicated to advancing the leadership of women in the visual arts, and helped host a leadership awards ceremony last year, according to the group’s website. She is survived by a son in Vienna, Va., a daughter in Golden, Colo., and her three siblings.