Last night at about 9 pm, I was sat on a train between Manchester and Liverpool waiting to visit family. I’d already missed my earlier connection due to a late train from York, and I was absolutely bloody knackered.
All of a sudden, though, our train jerked calmly to a stop. Within all of 30 seconds, we were still on the line, passengers silent, an eerie sense of tranquility through our carriage. Something was wrong, we all knew that; but what? Nobody knew.
Twenty minutes went by as passenger after passenger tapped away at their phone, a bleak reminder of the ever-connected world we live in, even in the midst of darkness on a cool August evening on the outskirts of Manchester.
All of a sudden, the conductor came into our carriage and told us that our train had been involved in an incident. We were calmly told that we were waiting for the emergency services and Network Rail to arrive on the scene.
Of course, in this day in age, my first thought was terrorism: a suspect bag, a person making threats, a weird smell. It’s all you ever hear about on the news, across social media, warnings cascading down right from Central Government level.
Then, all of a sudden, we got told: “we’ll be moving again when the driver is okay”. My heart shattered into a thousand pieces: we’d stopped because there was somebody on the line. The driver thought he’d killed somebody, injured someone, taken a life.
We waited in silence, other than one woman who kept staring, taking photographs and saying out loud that she just wanted a burger. I was shocked out of my mind: a family would be getting the worse news imaginable, and her only concern was a burger.
I looked my brother straight in the face and remarked, as loud as I could without screaming him to sleep, “Some people are so disrespectful, aren’t they, Kian? You’d think it was disaster tourism for them.” She quickly shot me a dirty look and continued. Idiot!
Not long afterward, the conductor came over the tannoy. He calmly and politely informed us that the British Transport Police, Ambulance Service and Network Rail’s Mobile Operations Team had arrived, and we’d be moving as quickly as we could. I didn’t care.
My entire journey seemed insignificant, not even worthy of thought, when it became apparent that a family would be getting a knock at the door that night from the Police, giving them news very few of us ever could imagine receiving. My heart bled for them.
Shortly following that, however, the conductor came back in to our carriage. He confirmed that we would be moving, but again, it seemed trivial considering what we believed had just happened just moments ahead of our seats.
But then… “we missed a teenager by a few inches”. I breathed a huge sigh of relief, grateful that no matter how the teenager was feeling, we had missed them by a few inches. I simply hope that they get the help they need and deserve, no matter why they were on the line.
Next time your train is delayed, think not of the meeting you will miss, your late lunch or the cold coffee. Think of the family who will be torn, the driver who will relive what they have seen forever, the emergency services picking up the pieces, literally in many cases.
If you’re struggling, please reach out to somebody, whether that’s family, friends or an organisation who can help. In Europe, you can make a free call to 116 123 for help from trained counsellors. You can even reach out to me if you just want somebody to listen.
My love goes out to the teenager, their family, the driver and conductor (who I gave a massive hug and thanked!), and the brave emergency services who run toward danger while we run away, day in, day out. They are our nation’s heroes.