90ish days of summer
I am home in Silver Spring, Md., safe and sound after almost three hours of transit. Had I left the washingtonpost.com office a half-hour earlier, I might not have been home yet.
At 5 p.m., when I was logging off my work computers and saying goodbye to my supervising editor, two trains collided on the Washington Metrorail’s red line, between the Fort Totten and Takoma stations.
A detail of part of the red line, where the two-train collision occurred between Fort Totten and Takoma at 5 p.m. today.
As you can see in the above map, the Silver Spring station is two stops past Fort Totten on the red line. According to the broadcast news, the two trains were headed toward D.C. — the opposite direction from which the train I would have been on would have been coming.
So even if I had left the office early, I wouldn’t have been on the trains that collided. But I would still have had to evacuate whatever train I were on, since according to the radio news reports, the entire red line is shut down.
Nevertheless, when I first heard about the collision — at 5:45 p.m. when I left a very congested Metro Center out of frustration — I didn’t know which direction the trains had been heading. So my first thought was, “I could have been on either of those trains.”
My second thought was, “I wish I’d been on or near either of those trains, and uninjured and with a camera.”
I read once that while most humans run from a crisis, only three kinds of people run toward it: the police, medical workers and journalists. I can’t honestly say I’m proud of the way tragedy and disaster attract journalists like bees to honey, but really, it’s a knee-jerk reaction. And if journalists can’t be at the scene, they often feel some dredge of guilt or regret that they couldn’t make it there.
That’s kind of what I’m feeling now, and every other time I’ve been close to a breaking news scene.
What else am I feeling? A lot of frustration with the Metro’s inability to communicate with commuters in the stations. It wasn’t until I emerged from the Metro Center station and called Jeff that I found out a major accident with multiple fatalities had occurred. I’m not saying that Metro station managers should have told commuters exactly what happened — but commuters should have been informed that the entire red line was shut down.
As it is, we were instead told to expect “major delays” and that a “turning incident” had occurred.
But I’m by no means educated enough on the D.C. Metro system and its history to say anything else about its failure to communicate and coordinate.
That said, I’m glad I’m safe and home, and my thoughts and prayers go out toward all the families affected by a tragedy that should never have happened.
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