I will do my best not to make this about me.
Because it isn’t. Not in any way that matters, not with any direct impact.
Roll your eyes if you must, but I’ve always considered myself somewhat empathetic. I don’t mean just as a trait I display, but as in I feel and am impacted by other people’s feelings, but the ‘tone’ of a room, by the things unsaid that are hanging in the air. It can be incredibly frustrating at times because it’s almost impossible to tell someone you’re bothered by the ‘vibe in the air’.
But it’s the closest thing I’ve got and it’s very much where I am today, because my city is in mourning.
Yesterday, shortly after 9:00, my phone rang at work. My mother’s name and number popped up on the display and so I picked it up with a casual ‘hello’ only to her her relieved voice say “Oh thank god you’re there!’
I was taken aback. What an odd thing to say. “Why? What’s going on?”
Apparently a city bus drove through the barrier & warning signals at a railway crossing and slammed into a passenger train that was pulling into the nearby station. The front of the bus was destroyed. 6 people have died, including the driver. Over 30 people were taken to hospital with injuries, 10 of them in critical condition.
Yesterday was a long day of getting not much done. A day of watching press conferences and checking in with friends and freaking out when I found out one of my friends was, in fact, on the bus. Thankfully she is (physically) fine.
Taking the bus home felt like a funeral, and passing all the flags at half mast certainly enforced that feeling. I mourn strangers, unsure if I have that right. There is an ache in my chest, though I don’t quite know why.
It is only when I am talking with my friend later that evening that the source of my sadness becomes clear. We are talking about the accident – for it is almost the only thing we *can* talk about – when she mentions how awful it must be to lose someone without getting to say goodbye. How sudden and horrifying that must feel, to have your loved one innocently grabbing a bus to work one minute and then gone the next.
The thought pulls the air out of my lungs and I swallow, glad we’re having this conversation over text message or I’d look ridiculous. But the idea that the last time you might ever see someone you love and care for is that morning when you’re telling them not to forget to pick up something for dinner, or nagging them to pick up their wet towels, or grumping around about having no coffee….
It’s something I hate to think about so much that I almost never do. It’s like I live in a world where it is physically impossible for me to lose someone in this way.
But of course it’s not. And just thinking about the family members of those 6 people, the sick feeling in their stomach when their loved ones don’t answer their phone, waiting to see a list of the injured, finding out that they are dead….I cannot help but put myself in their shoes.
It makes it hard to breathe.
I also think of the first responders, the mayor, the other bus drivers, anyone who has been involved in the first 24 hours of this investigation. My city is just…sad. She will bounce back, of course. This has taught us a bit about ourselves. We will recover, and we will use this accident to strength the safety of others.
But that doesn’t change the fact that 6 people didn’t go home yesterday. I am thinking of their families and wishing them all whatever solace they can find in the coming days.