No one expressed grief over the victim, or worse, victims, of the accident. It flashed through my head like the lightning, fleeting and bright, that it was probably their own fault. The gates at rail crossings are generally a good distance from the tracks themselves, though not all crossings even have gates. I knew the crossing the “experts” mentioned, though, and there are gates. Gates, flashing lights, clanging bells … and a traffic light to boot. It’s a major intersection. A shudder twisted up my spine when I considered what happens when a car and freight train collide. It’s not a new occurrence, neither uncommon, unfortunately. The result is never good.
I bowed my head and prayed again. This time I started with the family and worked the other way. I dropped the part about it not being true.
More news from the peanut gallery trickled down to me via their voluble voices.
“I guess da car’s stuck unner da train,” someone twanged. My heart spasmed.
Oh my God. This was a horrible accident.
“Oh, well, jeez, dat’s gonna be anudder two, tree hours at least,” another “expert” offered. “Yeah, at least anudder two-tree hours.”
I sat silent, not that I would’ve spoken anyway, but I couldn’t stop my hands from shaking. “Under the train” echoed through my brain like a gunshot.
I was dumbstruck by their callousness. More laughing as the discussion turned to the train company offering a limo service to get passengers to work in compensation for the delay … caused by a freight train running over someone’s car. With someone in it.
“Yeah, eidder dat, or a buncha conducters’ll come an’ carry us on deir backs!” A rousing round of mirth for this statement.
I prayed. And I prayed. And I prayed. And yes, I was worried about getting to work, and what had to happen for me to get there and still have any chance at all of getting something like my normal paycheck next payday, but I couldn’t rid myself of the image of some mangled, twisted, smashed heap of metal and plastic strewn along the rails and ties, broken glass and shattered light lenses spread across the intersection, and blood …
I shook my head to clear it. I stood, and pressed against the door handle to go out when I heard someone’s voice grating behind me.
“Well, dey ain’t gonna be able ta lift up dat train, no sir — dey gotta jus’ cut da car outta unnerneath it. Jus’ cut it out, an’ den mebbe dey can get da body an’ whatnot.”
An’ whatnot. I fought back the bile rising in my throat. I banged through the door and breathed deep of the rain-washed, humid air. I felt dizzy, like I moved through a dream-haze. Nothing seemed real. No one — not a single person — expressed the slightest sympathy for whoever may have been in the car, or what might’ve become of them.
I realized with growing horror that, not very long ago, I wouldn’t have either. Not long ago at all.
I prayed. I prayed, this time, for me.