Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Close Call Last Friday--A Sunday Journal

A number of personal incidents this past week have caused me to reflect with some urgency on the challenges of just getting through the day.  For now, I want to record my thoughts and feelings about just one of the incidents, if for no other reason than to give myself some comfort, and to exercise the narrative writing muscle....

Before long, (maybe even later tonight), I will return to what I know and enjoy best: views on visual and literary arts; recommendations (or condemnations) of the most recent films and plays; looks back on older works; political rants; and stories about our animal friends.

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A truck driver with 50 previous traffic violations and citations crashed his truck into a Metra commuter train last Friday morning.

The accident occurred just minutes after leaving the station in Mount Prospect, our home town suburb, where Mark catches the train to work every morning, and where I often board the train to the city.

Fortunately for Mark, he just missed being on the crashed train, having boarded the one previous to it.

(For movie fans, the Metra is the train system involved in the recent film "Source Code". )

Accidents and close calls happen frequently. Often, what happened Friday was the result of stupidity and bravado, when drivers speed across the tracks after the gates are down the alarms are sounding, and all precautionary signs are flashing.  Too often, they win this game of "chicken".  Unfortunately, the perpetrator of Friday's mayhem was unable to outrun his fate. He was killed on impact.

Trouble is, a lot of innocent people were injured, and many more were inconvenienced. The conductor was seriously injured.  The second car burst into flames, and the violent pitch of the train sent bags, work papers, books, and other personal items slamming against the walls of the train.  Many passengers had to kick out the windows for emergency escape.  No passengers died.

Trains were unable to run back on that line during the afternoon rush hour. Hundreds of people were left stranded in the city.  Fortunately for Mark, he was able to take an alternate line to Evanston (home of Northwestern University) and I was able to drive there to meet him and bring him back home.

Had Mark been on that train, and if something unspeakably serious occurred, I just don't know how I would react, and bear up under that. 

Illinois has had a long shameful history of putting dangerous drivers back out on the streets.  Former Governor George Ryan is in prison for a license scandal that resulted in the deaths of a vacationing family with a van filled with children.

It is sort of natural to try to avoid the constant fact of how fragile life is, how quickly it can change forever.  I suppose I have to give up the naive notion---I used to call it trust, and hope--that when you kiss a loved one goodbye before work, you can count on seeing that person again at the end of the day. 

On the other hand, it's best not to dwell...  Just give it its due....   Nothing in life is safe...But then not every activity will result in tragedy.

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