Mass Transit: Is it safe?

Photo above: two of the Americans, Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos,
with Brit Chris Norman at the press conference after the attack. (YouTube)

A terrorist gets on a EuroRail high speed train in France with an AK-47, a gun and a box cutter. He manages somehow to get a shot off. Three young Americans, Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos and Spencer Stone, along with a British man, Chris Norman, hear the shot and spring into action. “Let’s go.” They run towards the danger. Towards the danger. Who does that?

Courage is the choice and willingness to confront agony, pain, danger,

uncertainty or intimidation. Physical courage is courage in the face of physical pain, hardship, death or threat of death. (wikipedia)

Airman First Class Spencer Stone of the United States Air Force was in the hospital getting his wounds treated during the press conference. (file photo)
Airman First Class Spencer Stone of the United States Air Force was in the hospital getting his wounds treated during the press conference. (file photo)

These men were certainly experiencing a “threat of death,” and had the physical courage to do what needed to be done. They took the terrorist down without hesitation.

So, our boys come to the rescue, once again. Land of the free. Home of the brave.

Robert O’Neill, the Navy Seal who shot Bin Laden, put bravery in great context. He said, “bravery is not the absence of fear, but it’s recognizing that fear, putting it aside, and getting on with the task.” (Fox News Channel 8/23/15)

The majority of the people on that train probably never heard a gunshot before. They’re just commuting, traveling somewhere, minding their own business. I know for certain that they’ll never forget that sound. I also know for certain, that their commute on the train will forever be worrisome. Without major manpower, i.e. soldiers, or police, it’s nearly impossible to make trains safe.

Anyone with a few bucks, or not (if they jump the turnstile), can ride on a train. There’s no authority, there’s no security, there’s no screening process, there’s nobody around to save anybody. You are at the mercy of your fellow commuters.

I used to commute to Boston on the train. I had learned to avoid eye contact with anyone on these trains for fear of inviting an interaction of any kind.

One morning around 7:00 a.m. on my way to work, minding my own business, the doors open, and three punks, who were acting loud and vulgar while on the train, depart. On their way through the door, they smack this woman, (who was in the seat by the door), right across the face, for no reason whatsoever. For fun perhaps, or bragging rights …

Euro high speed rail (YouTube)
Euro high speed rail (YouTube)

As the cowards ran off the train, my chin hit the floor in complete shock. I didn’t know what to do. I sat there, frozen. Nobody on the train reacted. All shocked. After all, we’re just trying to get to work, not get in a fight. The woman, also shocked, just sat there. I asked her quite simply if she was okay, not knowing what else to say or do. She survived this injustice. This was a slap, not a gunshot, and we all froze. What would we have done if it was a gunshot?

After the shock, I was weirdly relieved that I wasn’t in that seat by the door that day. From that day forward, I never sat in that seat again, for fear of being smacked across the face by some young thugs with nothing better to do.

So, my experience wasn’t someone with an AK-47, thank God, but it’s to the point that anyone can get on these trains, with anything, and do anything to anybody, because there is nobody on these trains to help you. Unless you’re fortunate enough to have some courageous, individual on your train, like these Americans and the British man, you’re on your own.

Crime Statistics from one Boston Train Station: Downtown Crossing 2014

Part 1 Crimes
Assault 5
Other Larceny 28
Pick-Pocket 7
Robbery 9

Part 2 Crimes
Sex Offense 3
Simple Assault 20
Vandalism 5

(MBTA Crime Stats)

Boston has a Red, Orange, Blue and Green Line, and the Purple Line — Commuter Rails. There are 28 stops on the Red Line alone. These statistics are from one Red Line train station, Downtown Crossing.

Trains are a tin can in a dark tunnel with no way out. We are sitting ducks, subject to whatever happens. It’s completely out of your control to save yourself from whatever danger lurks on each car. You can’t open the doors. You can’t escape. You’re stuck, and at the mercy of the next train stop, when the doors open to freedom.

MBTA commuter rail in Boston’s Quincy Center. (YouTube)
MBTA commuter rail in Boston’s Quincy Center. (YouTube)

I’ve witnessed fights and arguments, but never something as serious as a gunshot. I felt I was at some kind of risk each time I rode the train, never knowing who I might encounter. I had no other option, like many others. I was grateful each day the round trip was successful, without incident. I was lucky.

People have to get to work somehow. Parking in the city is expensive. Traffic is endless. But, is luck going to save me from a terrorist? Is luck going to save me from a gunshot?

Trains are not secure. They are only as safe as the people riding them.

I wish everyone a safe commute, and a brave, courageous citizen or two on each car.