Thursday, January 31, 2013
"Crash" -- a UD student "auto" biography by Kristin Cella
23 January 2013
I went to a small high school in Elgin, Illinois. It could take anywhere between ten to twenty minutes to get there from my house, the reason being that there is a train station right by the school where there would constantly be cargo and passenger trains coming through. I always hated having to wait at the light for what seemed like forever because of the trains, but one day in particular made me despise it.
I was fifteen years old when my older sister was driving me and our two friends home from our after school field hockey practice. It was just like any other day. We were all talking, listening to the radio, messing with our cell phones, nothing was different. Like most other days, we just barely missed the light so my sister slowly brought her ‘97 Chevy Malibu to a stop right behind the tracks. Our windows were down and I could clearly hear the railroad crossing warning bells. All of a sudden I can’t hear them anymore. It sounded like loud thunder and a long gun shot, and pieces of glass fly everywhere over the road. A grey minivan on the other side of the track took a hard and fast right from the road perpendicular to us. The train hit it with immense force, and it continued to drag it along the tracks like a little boy’s hand steering his toy on the floor. Red warning lights continued to flash as they had started just seconds before.
We all witnessed the whole thing. We couldn’t help but to scream and burst into panic mode. Of course we couldn’t have done anything to prevent it, nor could the train. It blew its whistle just like all trains do when approaching a crossway. The minivan drove over the tracks at the exact moment the train would strike it from the side, and we all knew that lives had just ended. I couldn’t process anything because I was in such a state of shock. I’d never even witnessed a fender bender before this, and I sure as hell had never seen anyone been killed, but it just didn’t seem plausible that anyone could survive a crash like that.
A few people were out of their cars at this point, and my sister frantically grabbed her phone to dial 911. Her voice was shaking as she told them what we just witnessed. I looked around and saw other people on their phones doing the same. Soon after, police cars and an ambulance showed up. I couldn’t stop looking around at all the glass and replaying what I just saw in my head. Weren’t the crossing gates down? How did the driver not hear the train’s loud whistle? Could it have been a suicide attempt? We were all trying to make sense of it all. When our time came to cross, we turned right and drove parallel to the tracks. I started seeing more and more car parts sprinkled across the area and then finally the compacted minivan. The four of us barely talked for the rest of the ride home.
The grey minivan had five people in it. The driver was an adult female and the only one who miraculously survived. The passenger was her sister, and in the back were her two nieces and baby nephew. My sister, myself, and our two friends didn’t talk to each other for days because we were so shaken up, but we were eventually contacted by the police to explain what we witnessed. I hated having to relive the horrific incident; especially because it all happened so fast I wasn’t 100% sure about any of the little details anymore. Yet, seven years later I can still hear the noise of that grey minivan being pulverized and can see it happening in my head.
There weren’t many days throughout the rest of my high school career where I didn’t think about the accident when waiting at that light. To say that I now look both ways when I approach a railroad crossing would be an understatement.
Not this particular accident but a train-mini-van accident nevertheless.(editor)