Stay off the tracks for a safe night

By Jennifer Meyer

The holidays can be stressful times, but risking one’s life to get somewhere five minutes faster is imprudent and dangerous.

The night before Thanksgiving, I dropped my sister off at the Itasca train station to get on to the Milwaukee District West Metra inbound train, which goes to Union Station. A little while later as I was watching TV, a news report came on showing a train wreck that had just happened in Elmwood Park on the very same line my sister was on.

The footage taken from the news helicopter looked like a suicide bomb scene in Iraq. Numerous cars were totaled completely, on fire and strewn about everywhere.

After my heart dropped into my stomach, the news anchor announced the train had been outbound from the city. However, if that train had left Union Station a few minutes off schedule, my sister’s train could have been the one to hit those cars, as Elmwood Park was the next stop.

The Associated Press reported Thanksgiving Day the train hit five cars which catapulted into a mass crash and, in total, resulted in more than 15 cars being destroyed. As of Thursday’s report, three people on the train and 13 people from the crash were reported to have been injured.

How did the train manage to hit five cars and cause such a catastrophe? It happened because people were stopped on the tracks at a red light, right in front of a large sign which clearly reads “Long crossing. Do not stop on tracks.”

My sister, human resources manager Christine Meyer, was not at all happy with the situation she was put in. Her train stopped running and she was forced to get off.

“I’m pissed off. [I] had plans … they were ruined because people were trying to get somewhere faster and they could have killed people,” Meyer stated. “I’m glad they’re all OK and no one died, but I wish they would think twice before rushing. [The accident] could have been more serious than it was.”

I am stumped at thinking of a rational reason to stop on train tracks. It could not have been unintentional because train tracks are clearly identifiable with flashing lights and gates. When a train is coming, red lights flash and a bell goes “ding, ding, ding” and the gates come down so cars, theoretically, will not drive on to the tracks.

The only reason that makes sense is certain people are ignorant of their safety and for the safety of others. It is not worth risking numerous lives to try to outrun a train or to take the risk of stopping on the tracks and hoping the light turns green quickly.

Sadly, the people who were on the tracks will most likely not be punished for their actions. The media is portraying them as victims, but needs to start treating them like criminals. Those drivers are responsible for jeopardizing the safety of themselves, other drivers and everyone on the train.

It is a blessing no one was killed during this incident. However, it should send a strong message to everyone that you don’t always get lucky. The holidays are supposed to be a time to relax and spend time with family and friends. Rushing to go shopping and get errands done does not fit into this equation. Neither does getting killed or seriously injured by a train.

Columns reflect the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of the Northern Star staff.