There was an accident on Thursday night.
My girlfriend and I were watching a movie. She lives next to the train tracks. When I looked out the window to see what was making the noise I was hearing, I saw a FrontRunner train. Stopped. That was weird in and of itself, but we assumed that there was something malfunctioning with the train or that there was something amiss with the tracks and went back to watching the movie.
Then it sounded like a helicopter was going to land on the house. I looked out the window again. The cul-de-sac was alive like a firework display of red and blue flashing lights and all the neighbors were out of their houses. Firefighters, EMT's, and police officers were carrying a rescue gurney down the tracks to the Union Pacific gate that is a few hundred yards from the driveway. The helicopter that I heard was Life Flight landing in the next cul-de-sac over.
We stood on the porch and watched the scene, anxious and curious. Life Flight didn't see the cul-de-sac where my girlfriend's house is, and while there isn't a large distance between where it landed and the railroad tracks as the crow flies, to walk that distance, especially while carrying the weight of another human being, is another story. Shortly after the gurney was out of our sight, an EMT came racing back, pleading for the use of a truck parked on the street.
Turns out that a young man had jumped from the bridge onto the tracks in an attempt to commit suicide. He was coherant and talking to officials as they reached him and carried him, but shortly after they were on the street, his blood pressure dropped and his vitals became unstable. I imagine that's about the time the EMT went searching for the owner of the truck.
The damage was done though. Despite the heroic efforts of emergency crews, he didn't make it.
I don't know any more about the story than what I witnessed. I don't know his name. I don't know for sure how old he was, as one official said 18 and another said 20. I don't know how long he laid on the tracks, if he felt any physical pain, how many siblings he had. The only thing I know about his life was that he didn't want to live it anymore.
To be so young and to be so hopeless, so desperate to end the pain you feel...that is tragedy to me. What makes it especially heightened is that I have been there myself, desperate and hopeless, and I know those emotions do not have to last.
I have thought about him a lot. I have wondered about who he was. I have prayed that his family can be comforted as they ask their own questions and try to manage the grief that comes when a loved one leaves this life. I have prayed for his safety and comfort as well, and hope that he can feel of the impact his life has had and the love that exists for him. I pray that the Spirit of God will grant him the peace that he could not find, and that it will be with him now and forever.
This incident has also brought to mind one of John Donne's writings, Meditation 17. I have posted it in its entirety, but particularly the paragraph where he says:
"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
For the rest of the night, as FrontRunner trains would pass, the sound of their bells could be heard. I'm sure it was a potential warning to anyone who could still be in the area investigating. It seemed fitting in some way, some small mention that something had happened, and that mankind was the less that night, and from that night forward.
Again, I resound my plea, that if you are at the point where this young man was, desperate and hopeless, and you are done with living the life that you have, please please please just wait a minute longer, ten minutes longer, an hour longer, a day longer. There is beauty in this life. There is joy in this life. There are small things that matter a great deal and there are people who love and care about you more than you can believe or imagine. You have the strength to grow from the pain. You have the courage to take another breath, and another, and another, and let your heart keep beating. I know you do. Just pause...for a moment...and find it within yourself. Take my word for it if you don't believe in the power you have.
The pain I feel surrounding this young man's death cannot compare to the pain of those who knew him, those he left behind. But it's a pain I feel. He had no way of knowing that his life would touch mine, however briefly, and that he would forever imprint my memory. We are all connected. Our lives are intertwined.
This world would be the less without you.