www.whyville.net Nov 16, 2008 Weekly Issue

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On the Tracks

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Last Friday, I was on the train heading to college*. It happens that I had just completed some maths when the train started pulling into the second station along the route. I was looking out for one of my friends when suddenly I heard a female voice screaming. I dismissed this at first as would many people at a busy station where lots of excitable teenage girls get on trains. It got a bit more suspect, however, when the voice started screaming, "My arm!!" but still, I did not realize. The train stopped and my friend got on the train and came over to where me and Friend 2 were sitting.

Suddenly, I saw people on the platform rush to the part of the train outside where I was sitting. In hindsight, it seems obvious and you as a reader have probably already guessed the next part of the story.

A girl had fallen under the train and had her arm trapped

A man jumped down into the area of the train next to the young woman and many people were handing down coats. I, for one, stood at the door of the train and looked out, watching people trying to help as best they could. I saw at least a few of the railway officials coming up with First Aid kits - ya know, the ones in boxes? It seemed silly at the time and still does and I have no idea why. Luckily, it wasn't long before the quick response paramedics and police turned up and a little later the whole hog of the fire service (wearing large helmets), more paramedics and a vast quantity of police. At this point we were all shunted back onto the train so that the doors could be closed and the alarms could be reset. Before they were shunted off, I could see people on the opposite platform looking down underneath the train. Soon, both platforms were evacuated.

Before we returned to our seats, a stranger asked in a quiet tone what had happened and I explained as best I knew. There was a quiet unity at that point as we all felt immense sympathy for the girl who, when we returned to our seats, was lying, hurt, underneath us. As we sat down, for all the commotion outside, the carriage was silent. This was temporarily broken by a voice over the speakers telling us that the train would be delayed. I can't remember much over the next 5/10 minutes but we were still sitting, watching what was happening outside and contemplating.

"All change" was the next thing we heard and everyone exited the train. There's not much to say from here. We left the station with several police along the way asking for witness statements. Outside we saw the great masses of abandoned commuters stood around emergency vehicles. A friend phoned another friend who wasn't meant to come in until lunchtime but got her mum to give us a lift to college. To illustrate how certain issues appeared small against this - I was three quarters of an hour late for Government and Politics and had to do an essay.

Later that day, I found out what had happened. This young woman (19 I think) was standing on the platform when her train came. She got her bag caught on the front of the train and this knocked her down. She was dragged along by the train and pulled underneath it. I, unfortunately, don't know what happened to her apart from that her arm was badly damaged.

Seeing someone facing their fate obviously raises the question of mortality. It should seem small as I wasn't the only person on that train and the only person who was a part of it but I felt like I could have been. What if fates had been different and the girl had died? What if it had been me at the station, or a friend?

However, what I really saw in that moment was the hidden goodness of humanity. There are so many people who would dismiss human nature as being callous and at the core self-interested. When I saw ordinary people, though, jumping down onto the tracks to try and help this girl in the best way they could, it really spoke to me. Though I can't read minds, I'm pretty sure that no one on the train had the simple though "What a silly person, now I'm going to be late for work" or at least I hope not. Humans can be decent people, too.

I'm not sure this story has a single meaning but I hope it speaks to you, somehow.

Life is a feather and a paper-shredder.


* In England, a college does not mean a university and many (if not most) colleges are exclusively for 16-18 year-old people.


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