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A Scary Subway Moment

Updated on July 23, 2012

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.

Outside a subway fire
Outside a subway fire | Source

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.

A long walk from the tunnel to the platform.
A long walk from the tunnel to the platform. | Source

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.

Copyright Tillsontitan - All rights reserved

This is what the subway looked like in the 1960s - ergo the name "strap hangers"


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    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 6 years ago from New York

      It was definitely a day to remember scarytaff. I appreciate your vote and share.

    • scarytaff profile image

      Derek James 6 years ago from South Wales

      Glad you escaped without being hurt,tillsontitan. What a nerve wracking experience. Thanks for SHARING. Voted up.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 6 years ago from New York

      Thanks Frank...we all "have our moments!"

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 6 years ago from Shelton

      oh my moments like this no one can forget.. especially when it happens to you or even someone very close to you...nonetheless now it is a great hub.. and share my friend :) Bless you Frank

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 6 years ago from New York

      Thanks YasmeenAli, even though it was years ago I remember it like it was yesterday.

    • YasmeenAli profile image

      YasmeenAli 6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Wow, that's somehow horribly scary and a impressive at the same time. I love this story, especially the fact that it is from a personal point of view. Very enjoyable.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 6 years ago from New York

      How different our lives are Sky but we share our love of writing! New York is a great place but very busy, even upstate, compared to where you live. Truth is always the best way to go.

    • Sky9106 profile image

      Sky9106 6 years ago from A beautiful place on earth.

      I was glued to every line , and now I must run downstairs I left the toaster truth.

      This is what I love about truth, it can be sensed for days away, I do it with the court shows on TV. It's always exciting , and fun to see and read.

      And here from you thge very same excitement.

      It's so great to hear about NY happening , even years ago sounds like yesterday. My heart lives in NY, because my dear Mother still live there, I speak to that State at least twice a day.

      This is a great story tillsontitan, and very well depicted. See you were born with this wisdom and ability only, only now we are grateful to partake.I am!

      You were lucky you spoke quickly to your Mom, letting her know to look at the TV.

      In the islands where I was born, no such leisure at that time , we would easily understand all the details, when Mom said be back by 6pm. Only few things saved us after 6pm passes even by a second, and that will be the parents of the other kids we were with, at the door with us.

      Great work tillsontitan.


    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 6 years ago from New York

      Effer we're all cowards at heart but when adrenalin flows and others behave it's easy to go along with the crowd. Strange is yet another bond we share ;)

      Lord this was an experience I've never forgotten so it was easy to share. Glad you enjoyed.

      Rosemay as I told Effer I really did follow the crowd. God Bless the man who had the sense to keep us all from panicking.

    • Rosemay50 profile image

      Rosemary Sadler 6 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

      This was very scary, you all did well not to panic, that is when things worsen and people get trampled.

      Glad you all got out safely

    • Lord De Cross profile image

      Joseph De Cross 6 years ago

      After Effer J!

      This is close to a plane going down!!after turbulence..OMG!

      Scary moments abound and are around any corner, and this was a horrific and claustrophobic one! Thanks for putting this one together!


    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 6 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      From one of the biggest chickens around...I'm not sure I'd have survived!! My heart was pounding just imagining your experience. I have discovered one thing about myself and "panic." If alone or with adults, I'm the first to FREAK-OUT....if there are children present, somehow I miraulously keep it together and actually use my head. Strange, I know. So, Tillie, now YOU know I'm strange....shhhhhhhhhh!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 6 years ago from New York

      Rebecca the photo isn't from the same fire but that's what it looked like. Unfortunately NYC subways do have fairly frequent fires.

      WD I think I'd rather be in a subway fire than deal with a gator!

    • WD Curry 111 profile image

      WD Curry 111 6 years ago from Space Coast

      I had a scary moment when I walked up on a 14 foot gator sitting on her nest. I just stayed cool and backed away.

      I stay out of cities, They are really scary!

    • RebeccaWhitman profile image

      RebeccaWhitman 6 years ago

      Great hub, scary story. Is the fire subway pic from the same time you experienced?

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 6 years ago from New York

      klanguedoc - must've been terrifying for had no place to go! Thank God for the conductor and engineer.

      Bob - yes, it was scary and you're right the fumes in the 'underground' are not to be ignored. I'm thankful I've never been in a bomb attack. I've known many who have.

      Audrey - Thanks for the compliment. I guess we handle things as they come along.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 6 years ago from California

      That must have been pretty scary! You all seems as though you handled it well though--

    • diogenes profile image

      diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Nasty experience. Subways, or the Underground, as we call it in Britain, is vulnerable to fires, floods and terrorism, as we found out in Britain a few years ago with the bomb attacks. There's just nowhere to escape. You were all very lucky that you didn't suffocate with smoke inhallation; another problem is that subway fires often have poisonous fumes associated with them from the wiring and paint, etc. Thrilling acount...Bob

    • klanguedoc profile image

      Kevin Languedoc 6 years ago from Canada

      Great hub. A truly scary moment for me was running to catch a train (the train was old and the wagon doors remained open) in the morning for work and the train started to pull away as I approached the wagon door. I had one foot on the platform and one on the train as the train gained speed and I wasn't unable to lift myself into the train because of the wind drag. I hung for dear life until the conductor and engineer appeared and pulled me in.


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