Monday, June 22, 2009

DC's Public Transportation Nightmare

In case you haven't turned on a television, listened to a radio or used a computer in the past two & a half hours, today's big news is this: The Metro crashed.

Two train cars on the redline (the line I live on), collided head-to-rear around the start of rush hour between Fort Totten & Takoma Park when one train slammed into a stopped train ahead of it. A 7:15 press conference by Mayor drian Fenty, DC Fire Chief Dennis Rubin & Metro General Manager John Catoe confirmed that at least four people are dead, including the driver of the latter train, & as many as 100 are injured, some critically. It's being reported as the deadliest Metro crash in history - & the fire department has indicated that it suspects the body count will rise.

After hearing the news, I raced home as well as one can "race" when taking a bus with what felt like the rest of the city (travel is mighty tight when there's no way to get home), & turned on the TV to discover that the photos & videos are much, much worse than I ever could have imagined. With one train literally sitting atop the other in a heap of twisted metal, it's like a scene ripped from "Die Hard."

If anything is fortunate about this situation, the only thing I can come up with is that it happened on one of the few stretches of the redline that's outside rather than underground. If anything is a blessing in such a tragedy, it's that 12 train cars full of wounded & shocked Metro riders weren't also trapped in underground tunnels, though my sometimes-clausterphobic self shudders in empathy for the folks on the otherwise-unaffected trains that are probably still stopped underground in wait as a result of the accident.

I first heard about it from one of our interns, & the from there, the "Are you OK?"s quickly started rolling in. My journalism friends from home, ever the diligent news readers, checked in on me one by one via frantic texts peppered with nervous exclamation points. Then my Twitter feed exploded, blogger friends checking in on one another's safety via "Where are you?" tweets. News stories began to expand, blog posts began to emerge, & I, for one, have successfully tracked down all but a couple of my DC friends to confirm their safety (fingers crossed for the others, please). Watching the press conference, I was struck by the enormity of my living in a city where something like this can happen.

After today's scare, I can promise you this: I will always, always check in via Twitter. If something goes down & you don't find me there, then you can start to worry. The only other good thing I can find in this disaster? Technology is, indeed, grand.
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