Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Hard to know how to respond.

A woman committed suicide yesterday via Caltrain. I am sorry for whatever in her personal situation caused her to sit on the train tracks. I am sorry for the loss her family and friends are experiencing. At the same time, selfishly, I was glad that I was already at work.

This morning there was a second death on the tracks, before I headed to the station. I arrived to work about an hour and a half later than usual. On the way there, the woman sitting behind me was screaming into her cell phone "They always jump in Palo Alto! I am going to be late to my Dentist appointment!" Another person grabbed his bike and pedaled to Palo Alto, tired of waiting. Once our train started to move the train was moving about 10mph between Cal Ave and San Antonio, which I knew from the twitter caltrain group was the scene of the accident. "Why aren't we speeding up?" a woman asked the conductor. "It's not like there's a body on the tracks." The conductor, a man I've seen often enough on the train who has always been patient and kind said softly, "Actually, there is." From my window I saw the coroner putting on a pair of gloves. I went back to my book.

The truth is Caltrain averages about one suicide / month on the tracks. Sixteen people lost their lives due to collisions in 2008, and some were ruled accidental, not suicide. I remember seeing an increase in this number towards the end of 2008. Was it the mass layoffs? The mortage rates? The holidays? Totally unknown. No suicides for January, February, March, and April in 2009 is pretty amazing.

It is hard to know how to react. It's an experience that is pretty tied to commuting by train and not by car. When I was driving I never worried about someone jumping in front of me as I sped down 101. It is frustrating to be delayed to work or appointments by an hour or more. It's unsettling to be reminded of our fragile human condition and how connected we all are. It's sad to think another life was in a place that could not reach out to request or receive the love and support they were needing.

To the family and friends and all that have been impacted by these losses: I am sorry for your loss.

Finally, as is posted at each station: The Hope Line. I love you.


  1. In reading this post, I'm feeling a little horrified that people can be so callous by a death that they complain about being late to work. But up comes my magick mirror and I ask myself, what have I become callous to? "Oh look. Another deer dead on the side of the road. Stupid deer..."

    Your post is a good reminder, love; not to take anything for granted.

  2. I do think it's human nature to react from our personal view point. I'm not going to be holier-than-thou, I admit my first thought on arriving at the station and seeing "trains are running late" was "dang, should have checked the twitter!" and "I'm going to be late to work." It wasn't "Oh, I hope no one was hurt!"

    It's not so different from when I was driving. I would be frustrated by an accident causing delays (even more frustrated at the masses trying to look!) and less concerened about the well being of all involved.

    The woman saying "It's not like there is a body" and the "yes there is" was a bit of a kick to the chest. Hearing two guys on the train platform on the way home saying "Did you see the body?" like it was last night's Daily Show was unsettling. And finally, the person that posted "NB 275 1 new. As if the fatality was not enough." on the Twitter - Shame on you.