Please don’t let him die!

That’s what I kept saying in my car.

It was a terrifying experience for me and I wasn’t directly involved. I had a front row seat to a near train disaster.

As it unfolded time stood still. Everything was in slow motion. I (and everyone else watching it) was frozen unable to help. There was nothing to do but hope.

A big tractor-trailer rig (very big) turned very slowly from a side street onto a main road. It was a tight turn. The driver had to clear light standards and cars.

There are railroad tracks on the main road at the turn. The cab of the rig was on the tracks when the warning lights started flashing and the guard rails came down signaling an approaching train. Once that happens there are a few seconds before the train comes through. Not much time. I don’t know how much because it was all in slow motion. Very slow motion.

The trailer part of the truck hadn’t yet crossed the track. The whole rig was in a position that looks a little jack knifed with the cab at a sharp angle from the trailer.

The driver crashed the guard rail and continued through slowly. He had no choice. I silently said a prayer for that driver.

At this point the intersection was out of my vision. I was a half block away. I heard the train and didn’t hear a crash so the driver must have made it safely. He literally had seconds to clear the tracks.

Had the train hit the rig it would have swung it around striking cars that were trapped in line. No one but the driver could do anything. A call to 911 would not change the outcome.


Here is my feeble attempt to sketch it.

I was reminded how helpless you feel when you have no control and how precious life is.

This happened a week ago and I am extremely cautious crossing those tracks. It’s not only my actions. I could be affected by someone else’s actions. A less experienced truck driver may have panicked. I was panicking in my car and was not in direct danger.

It’s a life lesson that we learn over and over again. Each time it happens it sticks with us a little more. Or maybe that is a factor of maturity.

Life is precious and fragile. Go hug someone you love.

59 thoughts on “Please don’t let him die!

  1. Been caught in the tracks twice when the bars went down. Did not panic but was able to swerve around and get free in mere seconds. People were horrified and shocked but I just drove on my way.


  2. Pingback: Random 5 for February 21 – trains, retirement, Human Resources, reflections, clothes | Views and Mews by Coffee Kat

  3. Kate I understand your emotional reaction to this. Hard to watch and not be able to do something. I have watched two motorcycle accidents in the last five years where the people on the bikes did not survive. Haunted me for months and still think about them to this day. Glad all was okay for the truck driver and the people backed up at the train tracks.


    • I saw a car skid, hit the center barrier and burst into flames on an interstate. I was about a half mile beyond the car and saw through my rear view. All this stuff has haunted me and made me a more cautious driver.


  4. I understand why you’d be so shaken, Kate. We had an experience a couple of years ago that I think about all the time while on the freeway. I don’t know what precipitated this action, but a car in front of us on the freeway very rapidly moved from the center fast lane and crossed all four lanes of traffic before catching himself and stabilizing. It was scary! How he didn’t hit other cars or cause a major pileup I still don’t know. But when I’m driving I sometimes remember that and think of how alert we really need to be at all times. In a “train meets car” collision we know who wins! I’m so glad it turned out ok! Nerve rattling, for sure!


    • There are so many distractions these days. Back in the “old days” I used to have a radio with buttons. You hit a button to change stations. Easy peasy. Now I have a computer screen that isn’t intuitive. I cannot easily change a station so I don’t when I’m driving. I know people think they can multitask but they can’t.


  5. Every time I see one of those big trucks negotiating a difficult turn, I thank my lucky stars I don’t have to drive it. Truck drivers probably have to take risks almost every day since the streets aren’t made to suit their trucks. I’m glad he made it out of it this time. It must have been frightening to watch.


  6. I heard on the radio today that there is a need to review railway crossing and the alerts. Apparently the alerts can get out of synch and there have been many accidents because of lack of time. Luckily this was not the case with you Kate.
    Near death experience always wake us up to what’s important to us.
    Breathe easy my friend!


    • I heard that on the news last night too. It made a lot of sense to me because the gates starting coming down when the lights starting flashing. It would have been hard for a car to clear it and then the train came. I think that crossing is out of time sync. My husband said there had been complaints of sitting at the gates for a couple minutes before the train came through but it seems like they over adjusted or something wonky happened.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Horrifying. I get spooked about tracks. Never stop on them or too close – sometimes the railcars jump the tracks and if you’re in line trapped or close. Too scary.My mom was nervous when daughter was in a car seat. She insisted I carry a sharp knife of scissors so I could cut the car seat straps quickly if a train was coming and the car was stuck in the tracks. Of course their first car was an affordable but unreliable model T or something and did have tendency to stall I understand.
    Whew – between this story and the huge one on the highway during that snow storm, scary


  8. What a scary thing to be witness to, and know you can’t do a darn thing about. Glad the only thing that suffered was a guard rail. We have lots of train tracks in my community and we have to be on guard at all times to make sure we don’t get stuck on the tracks.


  9. You hear it all the time but it’s true that when you’re involved or a witness to something like this, everything seems to move in slow motion. Thank God no one was hurt, or worse.


    • The slow motion was the worst but I also had all those other symptoms of stress too. My armpits were like soup and I was sweating profusely. I couldn’t get the images out of my head for a day or so and really, there was no tragedy.


  10. Oh my, what a startling thing to go through. I did not hear about this one on the news. I am just grateful that your story has the truck driver alive. I understand your thoughts about slow motion, because as I read what you wrote, my mind’s eye was also in slow motion.


  11. That’s how I felt when I heard about the big pile-up on I-78 last week. Been there, done that so I know how scary it is when there’s a white-out and your car starts spinning I prayed hard for all involved. I heard afterward that 5 people lost their lives…soo sad!


    • I remember when you were in a multi-car pile-up on an interstate. You thought you were gonna die. Life can be fleeting. You wake up one morning in perfect health with a list of things to do and within hours you may be dead.


  12. I agree, Kate. Each time we get into our car, we just never know if it will be the last. I cross railroad tracks during my commute to and from work, I’ve seen some close calls when traffic is backed up and people stop on the tracks. What are they thinking?


    • I won’t ever stop on tracks! There is one spot on the other side of town where the train is very infrequent. People stop on the tracks to wait for the traffic light. Not me. I always give that train room just in case. The problem is if a car is hit you don’t know who else will be affected.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Thankfully no one was hurt. But I understand when you say that everything happened in slow motion. I myself was a witness to an accident and I felt the same way as you. Everything happened so quickly, yet it was like I was watching a movie in slow motion. I knew what the outcome was going to be, but I couldn’t do anything to stop it. I guess we all need to be reminded how precious life is every once in a while.


  14. Makes you wonder why there isn’t a longer period of time to ‘get clear’ as the train approaches. Mind you, then there would probably be an idiot trying to beat the lights. We’ve seen that happen over here. Glad things were OK.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s enough time for a car to clear because it’s happened to me. The truck was going painfully slow because he had to clear the big box with the signal equipment. I didn’t see the start of the turn. It’s likely he wasn’t able to swing wide enough because of a car. That area is so congested and the intersection is narrow. Oh yes, we have idiots who don’t want to wait for the train. I don’t worry about them. Survival of the fittest and all that.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. It is really important never to “enter” a railway crossing, unless you have a clear exit. We see so many people who cross in “bumper to bumper” line up such that if the barriers come down, they have no place to go. My heart starts to race whenever I see that situation because there is no time to do anything. Our public transport buses, and school buses, all stop prior to crossing. That is probably the reason. Often when I stop, I get an impatient horn blower behind me! Humans are exasperating at times! 🙂


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