As they were placing their orders at the DC restaurant, an SUV sped across Connecticut Avenue, jumped the sidewalk 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 on Saturday. Taffer was also involved in the local art scene, although it was not possible to confirm if they were at the same table. Bloom and Taffer both lived about two miles south in the Cleveland Park neighborhood.
Witnesses described a horrifying scene in which one second everyone was having lunch on one of the first warm days of the waning winter, and the next the SUV slammed into the sidewalk at 5510 Connecticut Ave NW. The diners seated on the left side of the door were unaffected; 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 servers was taking an order facing the street and saw the SUV with the split second he needed to back up. Had he faced the other way, he would have been directly hit, Gouskos said. The whole table was.
“One minute, you’re here; the next minute, gone,” he said. He said he was fine, but as his daughter, Stephanie, spoke about the family business he had built in a neighborhood staple of Chevy Chase, her father cried. Looking outside at the snow on the ground, he said he wished the weather Friday had been like this.
Three other people struck on the terrace were in critical condition and three others hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries. Three other people were treated at the scene and did not require hospitalization, DC Fire Department spokeswoman Jennifer Donelan said. Among those seriously injured was Shelton Zuckerman, a real estate developer and co-founder of the Sixth & I Synagogue in DC, who remained at George Washington University Hospital on Saturday, his wife, Rory Kirstein Zuckerman, said.
The driver’s name and condition have not been released. Duncan Bedlion, a DC 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 pulled out of the parking lot, veered south and then north, climbing the sidewalk outside the Parthenon.
Edward Levin, who was seated safely on the south side of the Parthenon patio, said he witnessed the event. The SUV driver was exiting an Exxon gas station across the street and sped through 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 as if he had been shot by a cannon. If he had gone completely straight he would have entered through the front door, but he swerved to the right and just mowed down all the tables .
Bloom was a longtime advocate for refugee and migrant rights in the United States and around the world. In 2018, she retired as head of the US office of the International Catholic Migration Commission. In recent days, she had been deeply concerned about the plight of Ukrainian refugees and was considering getting involved again, said her son, Joshua Bloom of Berkeley, California. “People were always asking for his help.”
Trained as a social worker, Bloom began her career in gerontology and then became involved in the resettlement of refugees. In 1997, she founded Refugee Works, the refugee self-reliance training and technical assistance arm of the United States Office of Refugee Resettlement. At 60, she obtained a master’s degree in international public policy.
Bloom reveled in the work. In a 2018 interview, she said her mother would ask her why she didn’t retire earlier. And Bloom replied: “Mom, when every day I wake up with joy and can’t wait to go to work, why the hell should I stop?”
Bloom was also an accomplished artist and spent some of her time in retirement exploring new media and earning certification in World Art from the Smithsonian. She also taught college classes 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 quite emblematic of who she is and who she was,” he said. “Even though she was 76, I still think she died in her prime.”
She is also survived by a daughter, Rebecca Best, and three grandchildren.
Taffer, known as Terry, was one of four children who hailed 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 area, living in both suburban New Jersey and Manhattan, according to public records.
Taffer studied in France as a student and her family enjoyed traveling there, according to several letters she has published in The New York Times over the years. She described the family renting a chalet in eastern France as “an unforgettable holiday” and offered advice on the best way 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 women’s leadership in the visual arts, and helped organize a leadership awards ceremony last year, according to the website of the group. She is survived by a son in Vienna, Virginia, a daughter in Golden, Colorado, and three siblings.