I’m not comfortable with death. I don’t have a lot of experience with it and anytime I think about death or myself dying, I freak out. So my not so fabulous Friday experience yesterday afternoon has been difficult to process.
Adam and I were heading home as normal down the same route. The road we take is right along the Caltrain tracks and we hadn’t made it 10 minutes yet when we stop at a red light near a railroad crossing. Everything seemed normal and I saw a train coming through blaring it’s horn as most do when they cross at intersections. Just as I saw it enter the intersection, I noticed something hit a pole that controls the bars that come down to block you from crossing. And, in what seemed like slow-motion, down went that pole. I immediately assumed the train must have hit a part of the pole and knocked it down but not even 5 seconds after thinking that my heart sank because I noticed the car and all of the parts laying on the road in front of us.
I panicked for a moment – “Oh my god, oh my god. Is that a car? Oh my god! Should I go help?!!” So I grab my purse, open the car door, and run through traffic holding one hand over my heart and the other over my mouth in disbelief, making my way to the badly mangled car. I am talking all airbags deployed, glass everywhere, doors off, and 90% of the front of the car ripped off (little did I know then that was basically the same for the rear of the car). The engine was exposed and gas was everywhere – not to mention the random things that had flown out of the car like a package of colorful sponges, and terrifying to say, a shoe that belonged to the woman who was still inside of the car.
There were about 8 of us surrounding the car, trying to figure out what had happened and who exactly was in the car. We quickly found that one of “us” was the husband of the woman still in the car. He managed to escape without any apparent physical damage. Sadly, though, his wife was in the car when the train (going at least 50 MPH, and I've heard closer to 70) struck it, sending her from the front driver seat to the back passenger side seat. I remember two ladies trying to attend to the woman, and someone screaming “don’t touch her, don’t try to move her!!... all the while, the husband pacing in frantic disbelief.
The cops and fire engines showed up in good time. We all tried to get our stories straight so they could figure out exactly what had happened. And they did the best they could to direct traffic and assist with the rescue.
As the firefighters attented to the woman in the car, I noticed the train conductor walking slowly towards the wreckage. I can’t begin to imagine what he must have been feeling. It makes me shake thinking about it actually. And then it happened. I heard Adam tell me that the firefighters were saying the woman’s blood pressure was very low and that wasn’t a good sign. The cops took our statement and information and asked us to leave. I didn’t want to but I knew there was nothing more I could do to help.
So we walk back to our car and I’m wiping glass off of my shoes, hoping that she will pull through. Finally we’re pulling away and I see the husband with two supporters standing behind a rail, staring so intently at the car just waiting to find out anything… that one image will stay with me forever. It was heart-wrenching and haunting. I don’t know what I would have done in his shoes.
I took to Twitter and Google to find out any news that I could. It angered me to find some people making jokes that someone had killed himself or herself again, or that people were complaining because they wouldn’t get home in regular time. You know what? That woman will NEVER get to go home to Indiana again. And her husband will NEVER get to go home with his wife again. Have a heart and find out the facts before you comment - thanks!
There were a few messages that mentioned a fatality but I wasn’t going to believe it until it was from a proper authority. Once we got home I went on my computer to look for news – nothing. Nothing until about 5 minutes later when I saw Caltrain had reported a fatality. The news of this hit me like a ton of bricks. I had never cried so hard or shaken so much. I didn’t know what to think or how to feel… and now, 24 hours later… I still don’t.
Why do these tragedies occur? Why was the husband able to escape the car and not his wife? Why were we there to see and experience this? I don’t know. I don’t have any answers.
All I know is that my heart goes out to that woman, her husband, and their family and friends. This will not be an easy situation to pull through, and I am hoping they are able to find the strength and the courage to do so in time. She will always be with them – but I know it won’t be the same as physically being there.
And there will forever be a pain in my heart from this. I will never look at life the same. Never.