A Scary Subway Moment
We either don't want to admit it or we don't want to remember but we've all had some pretty scary moments in our lives. Some happened when we were little children others as we grew older. I think the scary moments as children, for most of us, were more scary for our parents than for us. It isn't until we're a little older that we become acquainted with fear, but scary true stories always have an influence on us.
For some people there's always something scary about a subway. Its underground, it can be dark and sometimes dank smelling. Sometimes its deserted other times overcrowded...the subway trains whisk through the station halting miraculously at their appointed stops and there's often just enough time to get on one of the cars before the doors close and the train whisks away again.
I think the first truly scary moment for me was when I was in high school. Part of an Easter vacation assignment was to visit the Museum of Natural History. Not exactly one of your vacation ideas. Being a high school senior I wasn't thrilled about the assignment but it was a day in the City. (Although Queens is one of the City's boroughs, when you live in Queens the City means Manhattan.)
Once we got to the museum I was glad we had to do it. I totally enjoyed the Museum in spite of myself. The exhibits were interesting and we moved from one to the other trying to take it all in. After hours in the Museum we knew it was time to leave, get on the subway and go back home.
However, on the way back home the subway train was moving along nicely, until it stopped and the lights went out. Not an uncommon occurrence on the NYC subways. This time though the lights didn't come back on and the train didn't start to move. This was an uncommon occurrence. NYC subway delays are legendary.
We all sat there in the dark silently for a moment or two and then the chatter began, "What's happening?" "Where are the lights?" "Why aren't we moving?" "Something must be wrong." Comments went on and on until my girlfriend and I realized something was really wrong.
After sitting in that subway car for what seemed like hours one of our fellow passengers said, "I think I smell smoke." That's the comment that brought the fear and panic into that train. You could almost hear the chatter start to turn to panic. Another very sensible passenger said, "we need to get out of this train together, carefully, and without panic." So, it was agreed we would hold hands as we exited the train so that no one would be lost. A few very strong gentlemen managed to pry the doors open. Now the smoke came pouring in. It was bad enough to be in the dark but the smoke really gave it all a sense of urgency...we needed to get out.
We banded together and held hands as we started off that train. This was a prime example of New Yorkers working together as we do! We all walked along very slowly on a catwalk until we came to the subway platform, still together and still reasonably calm. Luckily the train wasn't very far from the station when it stopped. It wasn't easy remaining clam as we couldn't even see the person we were holding hands with and the smoke was thick around us. There are NYC subway signs everywhere but we couldn't see a one. It was so very dark. We found our way to the stairs, some of us stumbling as we tried to make our way up that long flight of stairs, still trying to hold hands so no one would be lost.
Once we got to the top of the stairs we managed to wind our way through the station and to the next set of stairs that would take us out of the subway. The scene that met us shocked us more than what we had just left. There were hoses and fire trucks everywhere. People were running around like ants. There were TV crews and medics milling about stopping people and asking questions and assessing their condition. There were ambulances and people lying on stretchers. Now I was scared! What was really going on? It seems there was a large fire going on down in the subway. There were people overcome with smoke and some hurt trying to get out of the subway.
A medic asked if we were okay to which we replied an emphatic yes and headed around the corner to get a bus and get home as quickly as we could. We were now afraid and just wanted to get away from there.
When I arrived home my mother was upset with me because I was late. I told her to turn on the news and she would see why. As she watched she turned to me and said, "Oh my God, are you all right?" "Yes, Mom, just a little shook up." The news coverage showed the scene we had just left. It was total bedlam. The subway fire was big news, many had been hurt and of course the media ate up the story of people being trapped in the subway!
Thankfully our trip to the Museum though totally eventful, ended safely for us.
It took me years to go back to the Museum but I had to ride the subway two days later to get back to school.
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