He swayed and fell, landing on the tracks. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one praying as I shouted and flagged the train...
Posted in , Jul 16, 2013
Sunday morning, my wife and I were standing on our subway platform at 181st Street, our usual stop, waiting for the A train to take us to church. I had a copy of a psalm in my pocket to meditate on because, as I’ve mentioned here before, I often use the morning train for prayer time.
There were a number of others waiting on the platform, reading newspapers, checking their watches, pushing strollers, holding kids’ hands, some headed to church like us, a normal Sunday morning.
“The train is now arriving on the downtown track...” the loudspeaker declared. Our train. People stepped forward. The distant rumble grew closer. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a man in gray pants and blue shirt rise from the bench and walk to the edge of the platform. Then in a horrifying moment—horrifying to recollect—he swayed and fell over the edge, landing face-up on the tracks.
People shouted and waved to the conductor of the approaching train, “Stop! Stop! Man on the track! Stop!” Some darted up the steps to get help from the person in the booth—if there was only time. Some dashed up with their cell phones, looking for a signal to call 911. And I’m sure I wasn’t the only one praying as I shouted and flagged that train.
The train was in view coming out of the tunnel. We waved. We called to the man on the tracks, “Get up. Get up.” It was too late and too dangerous to jump down and help him. The train was charging forward. Did the conductor see us now? How could he hear us over the rumble?
And then in what seemed like a miracle, the train slowed and lurched to a halt—it must have been only fifty yards from the man on the track. Overwhelmed, a college girl standing on the platform dropped her bags and burst into tears. Strangers comforted her, hugged her. Several went up to the girl clutching her mother’s hand. “Everything is going to be all right now,” they said. People dashed back down the stairs, holding their cell phones. And they leaned forward to help the man up.
He staggered up to the platform, didn’t even bother to dust himself off. Woozily he wandered forward. Drunk? Stoned? Desperate? People urged him to stay, linger. Help was coming. There’d be someone to talk to, help him. He shrugged it off and walked up the stairs and out.
The train inched forward. We stepped into the cars. Several people thanked the conductor. A disaster averted, a tragedy-in-the-making over. But we weren’t all strangers anymore. We’d seen something, experienced something.
My wife and I found seats on the train and took a deep breath, many deep breaths. I closed my eyes and prayed, Help him and Thanks.