One year

A year ago today, the unthinkable happened. A metro train smashed into another train, and people lost their lives. No one in Washington, D.C. needs reminding, and yet, as predictable as mosquitos in August, the news crews are out on the Metro trains today, interrupting the reverie of passengers and breaking the unwritten rules.

They’re talking to people.

It started with a single cameraman, shooting video possibly out the window, possibly of a young woman sleeping on the train, trying to make up for last night’s late shift on her way to class.

He shot video out the window, not quite at her, while two twentysomethings and I worried aloud that she was being filmed without her permission. We almost woke her.

Then he asked a commuter about her feelings about the train. It’s safe, she said. I ride it every day. But don’t you worry sometimes, he asked? Like near the (mumbling) or when you pass by where the accident occured? Oh, sure, sometimes, she answered, around (and I didn’t hear the specifics). He continurd to prod: today is the anniversary, you know. I know, she said. Of the accident, he went on, hidden behind the camera lens glaring in her face. I know, she said. It happened right there, he continued, ready to film the emotion he tried to provoke.

But she was unflappable. Stoic in the face of what the cameraman insinuated was danger, she simply said, I ride the train every day to work.

The twentysomethings and I were appalled at his forwardness. We cluck-clucked to ourselves, in relative safety across the aisle, and murmured about the media trying to make us afraid. We shrugged it off, returning to our book, our iPhone, our DC-ubiquitous blackberry, and we continued on toward our destinations downtown.

D.C. is like this, you know. We know full well that city mice run risks unimaginable for county mice, but we keep going anyway. We have work to do.

They flew planes into our buildings, you know. They mailed anthrax to our offices. They tried to make us afraid. After 9/11, we are a harder people. We care about our fellow passengers. We share our concerns. But we keep on traveling toward our dreams, leaving fear far behind.

We rode on, together, in silence.


9 Responses to One year

  1. clifford says:

    I’m glad the people have steeled their collective nerve post 9/11, because the elected officials who represent them have lost theirs. Last time I checked, they were still trying to blame 3,000 horrifying deaths on United States foreign policy. Wow. With friends like those…

    Bravo to that young woman and to the resilient spirit of the American people.

    • whymommy says:

      And bravo to you and all the men and women in uniform who protect us, every day.

      Thank you, Cliff. I don’t say that often enough.

  2. sutari says:

    And I ride a commuter train in to DC 4 days a week. Even after Madrid. Even when the dog gets on the train and walks the aisles and sniffs and you wonder what you would do if it started barking like mad. Even after I noticed the black bag, just sitting there behind the seats. “is this someone’s bag?” No answer. “IS THIS SOMEONE’s BAG?” “Oh, Mr. conductor, no one will claim this bag.” Eventually we learn it is someone sitting upstairs and half a car away. I guess if you gotta dump it, you gotta dump it, there isn’t room upstairs between the seats.

    But yeeesh.

    We adjust, we adapt, we keep on in the face of tragedy. Because the alternative is simply not acceptable.

  3. Karen says:

    I love this post–thanks for sharing this. While it’s important to remember, we do need to just keep on living our lives, otherwise the bad guys really do win.

  4. Caric says:

    I ride the red line every day with both of my children, both to and from work/daycare. I have to admit that I was VERY flapped after that accident. I couldn’t sleep for days knowing I’d been on that track just a few hours before and was only 2 stops away when the accident happened, with my son who was only just three at the time. However, you’re right. This reporter isn’t going to get a response from anyone who rides it daily. We know the risks, we read about them and experience the hassles and delays daily, but what choice do we have? Stay home? Drive into town (not a positive alternative in DC!)? Cower in fear of crashes (I guarantee the risks are higher on the roads!), terrorists, iPod/iPhone thieves? We do what we do, just like Susan said. And I promise we remember that crash and those who died in it. Every day.

    • whymommy says:

      So well said! I wish I’d said that more explicitly. We are stoic about the risks, but we do remember. Oh, we remember.

      Nine years later, I still remember turning to look over my shoulder at the Pentagon when the NASA telecast of a Pegasus launch was interrupted with the news on that terrible day. I turned to look over my shoulder, running into an empty office at NASA Headquarters, and saw the smoke begin to rise at the Pentagon.

      Every time I ride the metro over the Potomoc there, I remember.

      But still, I ride.

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