Memories haunt me daily when I think about this time of year. We were on our way to my aunt’s house for Christmas. She had a baby, and I was so excited to see him for the first time. I had picked out the perfect outfit at the department store in town.
Mother said the fastest way to get to their home was by commuter train to avoid the holiday traffic. It was the first time I rode a train of any kind. The snow that day came down in heavy flakes, and the ground was covered in a sheet of white.
I’ll never forget what ensued: the whistle blew loud, and the train tried to stop. It all happened so fast we didn’t have time to brace ourselves. Metal scraping, people screaming, gift bags falling, bodies flying everywhere, as I too, felt weightless. My first thought… I’m going to die.
Once the train cars rested, and the grinding metal came to a halt, I stayed quietly under a bench for a few minutes –the one bench that still managed to stay intact on the floor. There was glass everywhere and I smelled a fire burning. Dead bodies lying about, at least I assumed they were dead, nobody was moving.
“Where are my parents?” My thoughts jumble, as I try to gain insight of my surroundings.
I didn’t see them at first, but when I turned my head, my dead mother’s eyes stared at me. My father hung over one of the car windows. I screamed in horror not knowing what to do. Terror filled my head, and I had to get out of there.
I recall climbing the steep hillside in the frozen snow and remember being amazed I had the strength to reach the top. My hopes were dashed though, witnessing an open field of nothingness. A nothingness of snow, and trees for miles. I knew then, nobody would be coming. At least not for a while. I had to keep moving; my body heat would maintain my warmth: I a least knew that much. I wasn’t going to accept death; it would not win that day.
I looked over the edge to see the mangled train. The wreckage was a clear reminder that I survived at all. It didn’t dawn on me until later –when I was older, and saw the news clippings, ‘No Survivors,’ did I realize I was the only one who survived the crash. My little secret. I remember I walked away without a scratch, except for my torn coat sleeve.
Dazed, I walked the tracks lost, looking for someone who could help, but that too was pointless. When it grew dark, and hope was beginning to fade, I finally gave up, found a well-covered tree and waited. Cold, I laid on the ground to fall asleep for the last time—death was winning.
I don’t know if it was minutes or hours, but someone came, swooped me up in their arms saying, “There, there, child. You’re safe now.”
© 2019 Emmy R. Bennett