Underground and Alone

SubwayKi-Suck Han was crushed to death on the subway this week and dozens of people watched, or fled. One man took pictures. Nobody reached out to help him.

This story touched me on a couple of levels. First, my dad was the Superintendent of Safety & Maintenance for the NYCTA in the early 1970’s and part of his job was going to the site of subway fatalities. I remember him describing the physics of what occurs when a person gets trapped between  an 85,000 pound subway car and immovable, concrete platform. It’s not pretty. Second, one night in 1981 I found myself in the same position as Ki-Suck Han, lying on the subway tracks watching the approaching headlights of an unstoppable, 426 ton subway train hurtling towards me. I had gone out with friends after a day of classes at Baruch College. I leaned over the edge of the platform to see if a train was approaching when my overloaded messenger bag swung away from my body pulling me off the platform and face down into the trash strewn space between the rails. From inside the dark tunnel I saw lights approaching.  My friend, overcome with the comical nature of my tumble, was laughing uncontrollably; the other commuters stared and backed away from the edge. The train’s motorman must have seen something on the tracks because he blew the horn.  I threw my book bag up on the platform and as the train entered the station I hoisted myself up. I was lying on the edge of the platform as the train squealed past. Nobody had moved a muscle to assist me. I don’t think it is cowardice, but rather a combination of shock, fear and disbelief that freezes people. It is the rare individual that reacts in these situations. I was fortunate enough to be younger and taller than Mr. Han and thus able to climb out of danger.

Be careful out there.