PRINCE GEORGE — Nathan-Michael Smith's extended family has gotten a lot bigger in the year since he died, and in the future millions of people will know his name.
Members of Smith's immediate family were joined Friday by Virginia State Police officers, local and state officials and members of the community in a ceremony dedicating a Prince George County bridge in memory of the trooper who was killed in a car crash just over a year ago.
“You all have taken us in and made us part of your family,” said Smith's widow, Jennifer H. Smith, who attended the ceremony with the couple's two young children and Smith's mother.
To Smith's immediate family and “his Virginia State Police family,” said state Sen. Rosalyn R. Dance (D-16th), “he was a hero and he will always live on and be remembered.”
Dance sponsored the legislation in the state Senate that designated the bridge over Interstate 95 at Exit 45 as the Trooper Nathan-Michael W. Smith Memorial Bridge. In the House of Delegates, Del. Lashrecse D. Aird (D-63rd) sponsored the equivalent legislation. Both houses passed the measures by unanimous votes.
“Rest assured that his precious memory will linger in your hearts,” Laird said to his children.
Smith, who was just 27 at the time, was killed in a single-vehicle crash on Interstate 95 in September 2015 while he was responding to a call for assistance from a fellow-trooper.
At Friday's ceremony, Dance and Mrs. Smith unveiled the sign that will mark the Exit 45 bridge in Smith's honor. According to Virginia Department of Transportation figures, about 41,000 vehicles pass along that stretch of roadway on an average day, adding up to more than 15 million vehicles per year whose drivers and passengers can see the sign.
“He will always live on and be remembered by all who travel along by Exit 45,” Dance said.
•Michael Buettner may be reached at email@example.com or 804-722-5155.