When dark clouds blew in without warning about 3:15 p.m., the group ran from the King Farm Park picnic area to its cars. Five minutes into the roaring wind and pelting rain and hail, one picnicgoer said, a bright bolt of lightning filled the sky, followed instantly by deafening thunder.
After the storm had passed, they found Carl Henn "lying beneath a towering tree that had a fresh, eight-foot-long gash where lightning had apparently struck."
Henn, 48, died Tuesday at Washington Hospital Center, where his brother said his heart, damaged by the lightning strike, gave out. His wife, two daughters, parents and three siblings were at his bedside.
Friends, neighbors and Rockville officials said Montgomery County lost in Henn one of its most passionate environmental activists. He is credited with expanding the city's community gardens and persuading the City Council in 2007 to save fuel and promote recycling by cutting garbage collection from twice to once a week.
"He lived what he believed," McCarthy said. "He rode a bike so he wouldn't pollute. He used a push lawn mower. Everything the man did was principled."
Henn ran unsuccessfully for the City Council three times, most recently last year, but friends said he didn't harbor political ambitions as much as a tireless desire to help. When plows left six-foot mounds of snow in his Rockville neighborhood last winter, Henn grabbed his pickax and persuaded neighbors to join him in clearing the sidewalks. He was president of the Hungerford Civic Association.
He was a fixture at City Council meetings, urging leaders to forgo road construction in favor of improving paths for cyclists and pedestrians and to pursue fuel sources beyond petroleum.
Henn was known for riding his bike to work and wherever he could. He had ridden two miles to the picnic Sunday, McCarthy said, and everyone assumed he had run to someone's car for shelter.
"It physically pained him when he had to use his car," said his younger brother, Kenna Henn of Austin.Burt Hall, Rockville's recreation and parks director, said Henn had urged the city to add more community gardens so residents could walk or ride bikes to their plots.
ABC7 does more to make it seem like he died because he didn't have a car.
"It was a microburst kind of situation, it was a tornado touchdown basically and we thought everyone had run to their cars."
But Henn had ridden his bike, and never made it to safety.