Washington DC Subway Tragedy

After being under the weather for a few days, I’ve slowly returned to my normal life this week.  And you know what I realized?  The world kept moving forward even when I wasn’t paying attention to it.  It’s a little disconcerting actually.  But at the same time, the brief respite was nice.  It was nice not to watch the news and know what was going on outside our little home.  But I caught up quickly enough, unfortunately.

It happened last night when the CPA called on his way to school to let me know that there was a delay on the red line of D.C’s Metro system.  (Thank you to those of you who made sure we were okay yesterday.)  I wouldn’t have thought much about it as such delays are not uncommon, but  I happened to catch the news so I knew that it was something serious – they reported that there had been an accident on one of the trains.  What I didn’t realize, was the extent of the accident.

I’m so heartbroken to see the news reports and to hear as details of the tragedy unfolds.  For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, one of the city Metro trains ran into another train that had stopped on the tracks.  So far, nine people have been confirmed dead.  It’s the largest subway tragedy that this area has seen.

As is inevitable when something so awful happens so close to home, it becomes a topic of conversation around town.  In fact, I was talking to the CPA about it this morning as he was getting ready to leave for work.  He admitted that the whole thing had shaken him.  He was on another part of the red line when he learned about the accident.  He said that he sometimes thinks about the possibility of terrorists or explosions on the train, but rarely does he think that they will be involved in an accident.  So it hit him hard, as I’m sure it did many people.

It reminds me of how I felt a couple of years ago after the train and bus bombings in London.  For days afterward, I obsessively watched the news coverage trying to understand how something like that could happen.  I think I wanted to find a guarantee that what happened so far away from us could never happen here.  Because if I thought otherwise, I would never be able to ride the train again.  And since I used to ride the Metro daily to get to and from work, that would cause a serious problem.

Riding a subway is tough enough without the extra worry of accidents and terrorist plots.  For one thing, there’s the whole claustrophobia issue.  When you get on during the busy times, you usually find yourself sandwiched between at least five other people who are all vying for the best grip on the handrail.  There’s not like there is a lot of room to move around and once you’re on, you’re on.  And don’t even get me started on all of the germs.  Let’s just say that a subway car is not the cleanest place in the world.  I seriously doubt they are ever thoroughly cleaned, come to think of it.

And you may not know this, but there is a definite subway etiquette that must be followed when riding the Metro.  Everyone looks straight ahead and pretends not to notice the person standing five inches in front of them.  Most people read a book or listen to their iPods.  A few bring knitting and still others simply take a nap.  Taking a nap is easy to do because it is quiet, so very quiet.  In fact, it’s almost comical to watch when tourists get on with their families and friends.  They are laughing and carrying on while the rest of the regulars stare at them with carefully guarded disdain.

So yes, riding the subway is a tough enough, without all the added worries about accidents and possible threats.  But for most of us, it’s either take a half hour Metro ride to work or sit on the freeway for two hours.  And that’s before you pay $14.95 a day for city parking.  This just means that for many city commuters, not riding the Metro is really not an option at all.

Would you be nervous to take the subway after there has been an accident or another problem?

Picture compliments of wikipedia


Hokie Deb - June 24, 2009 - 4:28 am

–>I grew up in the DC area and would never hesitate to ride the Metro even after this accident. You’re right about the etiquette of riders too. However, one nice thing about prentending not to notice anyone around you is being able to watch all of the traffic outside the window as you just zip on past.


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Heidi - June 24, 2009 - 5:09 am

“They are laughing and carrying on while the rest of the regulars stare at them with carefully guarded disdain.”

I like when you get surly.

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Kelly - June 24, 2009 - 5:25 am

I really like riding the DC Metro when I come into town – WAY better than the Philly subway system. The only time I get nervous is when we’re barreling down the middle of a tunnel and suddenly stop b/c there’s a train ahead…. I’m always afraid we’ll get stuck or something. I feel so bad for the people and families affected by this accident – so crazy to see.

Jill - June 24, 2009 - 6:01 am

As I said before, glad you guys are okay. Though I don’t “know” you, I immediately thought of you and some other friends I have in the DC area. I think I would probably be nervous to ride after an event like this…

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Mom of 5 - June 24, 2009 - 6:25 am

So glad both of you are o.k. After an accident on any means of transportation makes each of us “think” about it when next we must use that means of transportation. I think that’s a natural process. It only becomes a real issue if we become obsessed with worry. Think you’re right, we all have to get on with life – work, play, family, etc. and that means we have to travel. So say a prayer and get on board with faith. I always pray for those that lost loved ones too.

Sandy - June 24, 2009 - 6:38 am

The very first time that I rode the metro was last summer while visiting D.C. I loved it and thought, ok this is pretty cool, getting to my destination so very quickly. I didn’t even remotely think of the possibility of a crash. I am very saddened by the wreck yesterday and especially the loss of life and the injured survivors. I am very sorry for all of them and their loved ones. I hate that this happened. I remember sitting there with my family talking and having fun on the train. I think I had to stand just one time. It was just like you sad, you could tell the tourists. I feel so badly for all of them.
But I would not hesitate to ride again. I think it’s safe. I am sure there will be ways to make it even safer after this. There are chances every day to have car wrecks and plane accidents. I suppose there is that chance of accident in anything that we do.

Jenny - June 24, 2009 - 7:18 am

This tragedy for you reminds me of how I felt when the 35W bridge in Minneapolis collapsed almost two years ago. It was so close to home and knowing that it could have happened at any time…I used to live just a couple of blocks from that bridge when I went to the U of M, and drove across it just about every day.

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Heather @ alis grave nil - June 24, 2009 - 7:50 am

I’ve only been to DC as a teenager, but I clearly remember what a great metro system the city had. I can’t imagine how difficult this would be to deal with, but I completely understand the need to keep riding. Must be hard that this hit so close to home. Scary.

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Sam - June 24, 2009 - 8:27 am

It would make me a little nervous, but not enough to prevent me from riding it as necessary. I probably would avoid extraneous riding while the dust from this tragedy is still settling. Kind of like how I felt about flying after 911. I was cautious, but continued with trips that were necessary for work and family emergencies.

Incidences like this remind us to be thankful for the safety and health of ourselves and loved ones. My heart goes out to the families of the victims. I’m glad you and the CPA are ok!

the domestic fringe - June 24, 2009 - 8:44 am

Whenever there’s an accident like that it makes me stop and think about how fragile our lives can be. Thankfully planes and trains don’t often crash, but I see accidents on the road on a regular basis. Many times more than one in a day. I think my chances of being in a very bad accident are better on NY’s roads than mass transportation systems.

Glad you are all ok.


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Sarah @ BecomingSarah.com - June 24, 2009 - 9:00 am

I would probably not be nervous, no, especially once I knew what caused the accident. I’m not saying that I was the first person in line to buy an airline ticket after 9/11, but if I lived my life around what COULD happen as opposed to what MAY LIKELY happen, I’d never accomplish anything.

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Kristina - June 24, 2009 - 9:55 am

You just don’t really think of ground transportation to be really dangerous. A train collision would probably be the last thing on my mind.

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Angela - June 24, 2009 - 1:03 pm

I immediately thought about you and the CPA when I first heard about the train collision — so glad you both are okay! It is heartbreaking when these things happen, and my heart goes out to everyone who has been personally affected by this tragedy. :(

I’ve ridden the Metro trains before (most recently during President Obama’s inauguration, wow!) and I think it is a great way to get around the city. Hearing about accidents like this would make me really nervous, but I don’t think I would stop using the Metro entirely. Like you said, it’s either sit in traffic on the freeway forever or ride the Metro, no other way around it, really.

Alzo - June 25, 2009 - 2:37 am

Statistically, the metro should be safe to ride, but accidents like this one really make one think about how fragile life is and how vulnerable we all are to a sudden accident where you least expect it. My heart and prayers go out to the families of the victims and those who were injured.

Tabitha Blue - June 27, 2009 - 6:23 am

Thank goodness you are both ok. That would definitely be a shaking experience, just to live close and to use the subway regularly. It would be hard to step back in it, but like you said, there really aren’t any other options. Really though, accidents can happen anywhere, so it’s not an unsafe way to travel, that’s why it’s so important to live life to the fullest.


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