Thursday, February 5, 2015

Life Lessons From A Tragic Train Accident

Several days ago I was on my regular 5:57 pm Metro North train to Larchmont.  It was a little slow out of the gate and the old train meandered along like a disabled elephant.  As it neared Pelham, a town two train stops from my destination, it just conked out.  After the conductor tried to “reenergize” the tracks and pull a few other tricks out of his stale bag, passengers heard an announcement at 7:04 saying, “Another train from Harrison will be here in 10 minutes.”  It didn’t come for nearly two hours.  What is supposed to be no more than a 32-minute commute on the express train took three hours.  

The last several hours were spent in dimly lit, unheated cars during a night where the wind-chill was below 10 degrees.  That experience was unexplainably frustrating, and just terrible.  I missed being able to see my two young kids before they went to bed.  My cold dinner awaited me.  The night was lost.  

I filed a complaint the next morning and demanded a refund of my monthly pass.  I told them I understand that trains can be late or break down but it seemed like incompetence and a lack of leadership permitted my delay to be so unusually long.  It was by far the worst train experience I ever had on the commuter rail since becoming a regular passenger over a dozen years ago.  

But 24 hours after that torturous ride, I realized that it was nothing compared to the fate of another train.

On February 3rd another train on a different line of Metro North, rumbled out of Grand Central station 15 minutes before mine left for home. Hundreds of people were on their way to go back to their families, suburban homes, and a night of respite from the realities of a busy day.  Some of them didn’t make it.

A crash killed, as of this writing, six people, and seriously injured at least a dozen more with broken legs and the like.  Apparently a car got hit by the train as it attempted to cross the tracks after the train crossing gate came down.  What happened next was freakish.

The car, a BMW SUV, got pushed hundreds of feet, catching onto the third rail, causing the juiced-up rail to lift up and tear into the first train car, causing an explosion and a fire.  It must have been shocking to all involved, as their lives were suddenly not just delayed or inconvenienced, but truly threatened.  

What would you do if left stuck in a train engulfed in flames and smoke? What would be rushing through you remind as it filled with panic, confusion, and fear?  How would your body be up to the task for whatever gymnastics would be required to get off that train?

What happened on that tragic train is still unexplainable and challenging to come to grips with.  What happened on my train was merely inconvenient.  What I experienced on my train is of no comparison or consequence, though I wonder if there is a link.  In both cases, mistakes had to be made by humans in order to generate the outcomes.  But even when we find someone to blame, it doesn’t make us feel better.  For me, they can try, if they like, to compensate me with money for my lost time and frustration, but for those who died or were injured in the crash, what could be given back to replace what was lost?

I was lucky that the fate my train met was a delay and not a tragic ending.  I’m sure every passenger of the crash train would’ve switched trains with me. But none of us gets to make those choices.  Life is random, filled with obscene luck and riches and horrific death and pain.  We roll the dice daily.

Though we pause to think of bad things, I encourage you to focus on the good.  Think of all who matter most and all the dreams you still want to pursue.  For us, it’s not too late, not too hopeless.  In honor of the dead, we must all live with a little more urgency and thanks.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

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