The trains are running back on schedule today. The remains of the crash have been removed. It will take a year before the final report is complete. We need to know the why, the how, the how-do-we-prevent-it. We need to make it make sense.
Like most of us, I hugged my husband a little harder afterward. I vowed to be more alert to my surroundings, to have a plan. I would know the emergency procedures. I wouldn’t sit in the front car.
When tradgedies like the Metro North crash happen, we become acutly aware of how quickly life can change. How fast someone can be taken from us. It’s not as if we don’t know the reality of death. Most rational people accept that we all die eventually. But somewhere in the back of our minds, we feel we can see it coming. The elderly, the seriously ill, the people in dangerous occupations, all anticipate death. We are not suprised when a soldier is killed or Great Aunt Hattie dies in her sleep. But when death is so arbitary – you leave your house, just an ordinary day, and never return – the human mind can’t grasp that. We believe we can prevent unexpected death.
But there is the oxymoron. How can you prevent what you don’t expect? And if you try to follow some procedure or plan to avoid the unexpected, you will live like a prisoner of your own fears.
So today, I sat in the front car. There were some other brave or ignorant souls there to keep me company. The train stopped, then crawled through the crossing in Valhalla. Many people stood and went to the windows facing the crash site to look. Out of curiosity maybe? Or respect? Or superstition? The media trucks were still there, waiting for….? I chose to stay seated; to look out my window at the opposite side of the crossing; the side that was still the same as it was before Tuesday night; the ordinary side.
In time, the front car will fill up again; the tracks at Valhalla will be repaired; the trains will resume speed. And except for the survivors and the families of those killed, whose lives were permanantly altered that night, things will return to normal. They have to. We cannot live otherwise.
For if we allow ourselves to constantly fear the unexpected, to plot and plan and shake our rattles at the vagaries of fate, we will live a very small life indeed. So most of us will move forward. Perhaps we will note where the emergecy exits are. Perhaps we will stay off the roads in dangerous weather. Perhaps we will not stand at the edge of the platform. But mostly we will just live our lives. Get up in the morning, kiss our loved ones, go to our jobs and take the 5:43 home.