Just stay seated and everything will be all right. We could all smell the smoke. Everyone was talking about it. “Hell no, I ain’t stayin’ on this train,” a boy yelled, proceeding to try to pry open the doors bare handed. He was with his girlfriend, I suppose. There was a woman to my left. Blond hair, straight and past her shoulders. Blue-eyed, I think. She and I were trying to calm everyone down. “Listen to the intercom,” we’d say. “It’s the other side of the tracks. We’ll move soon.” No one was paying any attention. The blond girl and I continued to exchange glances as if to ask what do we do? A woman cried out about a baby.
When the doors opened, we could more clearly see the smoke. It was white as it crept closer to our seats. We saw a man with a bright vest or jacket. He held an orange cone. People started to rush out, the boy and the girlfriend up at front. “It’s up and to the left,” someone yelled. I assumed it was the man with the cone. So we followed, and the white became gray very quickly.
What I remember of the rest of the experience is this: trying to breathe but realizing I couldn’t. Covering my mouth with my orange gloves and hiding my face in my jacket. A white woman with curly hair rushing past us yelling to let her through; she had a baby with her (what I heard later to be a one-year old and the mother was somewhere else ill from the smoke). Getting out into the fresher air and breathing in, then coughing. Talking to a boy who was down there with me who had asthma. Seeing that boy cry because his mother was coughing more than he was. A tall man who brought out water. An ambulance man saying “I can’t help you unless you were down there.” A woman from an ambulance truck listening to my lungs. Words that I was going to be all right. Looking around, confused, not knowing if I should stay, or if I should go. Phone calls and worried voices. Firemen and axes and police cars and people throwing up on the street.
I was still coughing when I got home around midnight.
But I’m OK now, just shaken up.
This is what happened last night at Downtown Crossing and my bare bones account of it. Apparently there was an electrical fire on the red line. Someone said South Station. Articles mention it was north of where we were. But the reason I mentioned all this in the first place is because I just talked about superheroes, and about 20 minutes prior to the event I had watched the movie Kick-Ass for the second time. Normal people being heroes. The lady saving a baby that wasn’t even hers. A man from the street buying waters for strangers. A woman I don’t know sharing a bottle of water with me. While it may seem minute, it just shows how people care more for the lives of others during an emotional event. We all were lost in gray and couldn’t see. We all heard the lady cry out for the baby. We all hesitated when those intercoms told us to stay put. I just hope they’re all OK. I know I’ll be fine.
What to do when you’re caught in smoke (in my opinion):
- If you smell smoke, leave the area. Don’t listen to people telling you you’ll be all right. Just go.
- As hard as it might be, remain calm.
- Hold your breath as long as you can. Trust me, trying to inhale smoke is worse than not breathing it in.
- Follow a group. If you get separated, make sure your voice is heard. When the smoke gets thick enough, you can’t see anything.
- Help others.
- Walk quickly. Don’t run. If you run, your breathing will worsen when you get into fresh air. You don’t want to be gasping for breath while you are trying to get rid of the smoke.
- When you get out, get your mouth, nose and throat checked by a doctor or ambulance. Make it known you may have inhaled smoke.
Wow, is life unexpected, or what?
For the people who rode in the ambulance, feel better.
For my friends and family, I promise I’m OK.
And in a flash, she was gone.