My Subway Experience

About ten years ago, when I was a sophomore in college, my boyfriend Ry, his best friend Jeh, my foriegn exchange student friend from Japan Tomoko and I all decided to visit New York City over spring break.  Tomoko and I were students at Kent State University at the time in Kent, Ohio.  I had never traveled much before this, growing up kindo f poor, and was pretty excited about going to the Big City.  I was scared, too, so we planned on staying with a mutual friend, Rachel, who had gone to high school in the town next to mine and then moved to NYC to attend Hunter College studying dance and film.  We had met working at a Subway Sandwich Shop.  (Another story, Rachel went to prom with my boyfriend (now my husband), this was before I knew either of them, and then I went to prom with her two years later).  Anyway, our friend Rachel was more than happy to house us for a few days and we were off!  We did all sorts of touristy kinds of things, museums and China Town and SoHo, all the cool things to do.  Then, I decided it would be really cool to go to the Bronx Zoo. 

So, we headed off to go to the zoo.  My friend has only lived in the city for almost two years at this point in time, and has spent the majority of her time in Brooklyn, where her apartment is, and in Manhattan, where her school is.  Like a lot of people who live in the city, she does not have a car, so we take the subway.  I love the subway.  Absolutely love it. Like I said, Rachel is not familiar with the area and we transfer to the next subway line, but it's the wrong one.  We get on the express train, not the local train, and we watch as the subway train speeds by our stop.  We get off at the next station so that we can catch the train back one stop, to the correct stop to go to the zoo.  This station is an above ground station, most of the stations we had been at were the below ground variety.  This one was above street level, so we had to go down the steps, cross under the station, and climb back up the other side of the platform. 

Here's where the story actually starts.  So, while we are waiting for the train to arrive, Ry and Jeh pick up papers, The Onion, to read.  My friend Tomoko and I practice our Japanese and English skills and my friend Rachel listens in, always interested in languages.  There are probably about 20 other people all milling about, waiting for the train to arrive.  Before I know what is happening, Jeh throws his news paper in the air and launches himself down onto the tracks, about 5 feet down.  My husband jumps in behind him, the paper still in his hands.  Then I see it.  A  man had fallen down onto the tracks about 25 feet from where we were sitting waiting for the train.  I don't know if he was having a seizure or what had caused him to fall, but he wasn't moving, just lying on the train tracks. 

Rachel runs to the ticket booth where a woman sat behind a giant bulletproof glass window talking on the phone.  Rachel tries to tell her, 'call the train, stop the train, there's a man down unconsious on the tracks', but the woman doesn't turn on the speaker, she holds up her finger in a motion telling Rachel to wait her turn and continues to talk on the phone.  She beats on the window, yelling at the woman to call the police, to stop the train, anything, do anything. The woman turns her head away from Rachel, her pointer finger still up to her telling her to wait her turn. 

Tomoko and I get up and run to the side of the tracks.  No one else had moved.  It was like no one even noticed that a man had fallen on the tracks or that two other men were down on the tracks, trying desparatly to move his unconcious deadweight body before the train came.  This was in a time before everyone had cell phones, none of us had them at the time.  I was distraught, I didn't know what to do.  There was no point in jumping down on the tracks with Ry and Jeh already down there, dragging the man's body towards the platform.  I wouldn't have been strong enough to help that way, anyway.  I got down on my hands and knees and helped to try to pull the man back on the platform.  Then we felt it.  We heard it.  We could see it.  The train was coming.  And it wasn't slowing down fast enough.  If we weren't faster, it was going to run us over. 

After what seemed like forever trying, finally, with strenght none of us knew we had, we had pushed and pulled the still uncounscious man onto the platform.  The train was right there, almost on top of us.  Jeh jumped up on the platform and we pulled Ry up just as the train came into the station.  The train probably missed hitting my future husband by less than a foot.  The train pulled to a stop and the doors came open.  Rachel came back and finally the woman at the booth had called the police.  They were on the way.   We all climbed on the train that almost killed us and continued on to the zoo. 

No one, not one of the other 20 or so people on the platform, tried to help us save this man, and they ignored him even after we pulled him up.  I wonder if anyone would have even tried to save him had Jeh and Ry not jumped down into the tracks.  If they would have watched him die. I like to believe that someone else would have helped if we weren't there, they just figured we had it under control. 


Grief and rage
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