**Trigger warning: post contains mild descriptions of peril and trauma**
People talk about New York being extreme. When I first moved here, someone told me it is the kind of place where you'll experience the highest highs and the lowest lows all within the spans of a day. Every day. So far, this has proved true.
While I welcome this lifestyle, today I particularly felt it. Work was the standard grind - luckily, my position in partnerships is not as burdensome as some other "grinds" I know in the city. (At least, not daily.) In the late afternoon, as I am wrapping up the day, I see a notification about the Southwest flight from NYC to Dallas that had a piece of shrapnel from an exploded engine break a window, depressurize the cabin, and have a passenger partially sucked out. I'll spare the details, but this unfortunate news was one of the reasons I try to avoid such notifications during the work day - "if it bleeds, it leads", as they say, so no push notification I receive ever seems positive. (Sidebar, turn off your news notifications!)
While I was grateful the plane landed and hundreds of lives were saved by an incredible female pilot, my newsfeed was later filled with details of the passenger who later died in the accident - a woman, Jennifer Riordan, who led community relations with Wells Fargo out of Albuquerque; a mother of two children, a frequent volunteer and leader in the community. I thought about how I frequently fly Southwest from La Guardia to go home to Texas, just like these passengers. I thought of my brother who spent time in Albuquerque, and the close-knit community out there where I have a smattering of friends. I thought about how I loved my partnerships role, and how she seemed loved hers. I thought of freak accidents, and how good people can just be in the wrong place at the wrong time. (See an upcoming post about my recent travel debacle related to this.)
I shake it off, and get back to wrapping up my day. As I'm preparing to leave work, one of my best friends calls, who I have been meaning catch for a week. I lock up the office and decide to walk about 20 blocks uptown to make time to talk. It is all laughs and smiles, jokes, life updates, and plans for the next time we might see each other. I'm feeling good.
I get to the 42nd Time Square train stop and end our call around 7:15pm, so I could catch the C uptown to where I live, and jump on a call I have Tuesdays at 8pm. While I'm getting into the station, I hear sirens all around me. I think nothing of it. This is standard, given its New York; particularly my being in Time Square, where tourists get pickpocketed by the minute, and nothing good ever seems to happen in the over-crowded, over-lit cluster. I hang up with my friend, and make my way down to wait for the Uptown A C E lines.
I arrive downstairs, and notice an E train stopped at the platform. Its lights are off. Its doors are closed. There are people milling around, though it seems quieter than usual. I notice some grim-looking firemen and policemen slowly make their way downstairs carrying what look like boxes of wooden planks. I later realize these were likely expandable rope ladders.
A voice comes over the PA, and I hear what I hoped I wouldn't hear in my first year in NYC: "Ladies and gentleman, Uptown E trains are delayed because a passenger has been hit by a train."
The part of me that has hardened in New York remains calm - overall, I default to calm, which I think is another reason why this city works for me. However, in the instance I remembered a friend's post about the time he experienced the aftermath of someone getting struck by the 7 train, and described "blood everywhere". I don't see any. The "incident" seemed to have happened at the very front of the train, much farther down the platform from where I am. I don't feel much, except maybe gratitude that I don't see anything. I'm next just wondering where my C train is so I can get home for my call.
After a few more minutes of milling around, we hear no more uptown trains are making stops at the platform. A police officer ushers everyone upstairs.
We go upstairs. Police officers and firemen tell people to make space. I see a group of heavily-laden firemen carrying a stretcher with a tarp over it. There's a body.
I won't go into details, but I will say that I felt compelled to look. I know, I shouldn't have.
Next, I'm wondering next look for how to get home - the uptown 1 train to get back to the Upper West Side. I walk a bit farther than I would have liked. I board the train, and email my group call that I may be a few minutes late. At 8:05pm, I am leading a call and laughing with a group of other young women I work with to hold ourselves accountable to our professional goals. I end the call feeling hopeful and relieved.
Now, I'm writing this blog.
Part of writing this may just come from my need to get whatever I may feeling from this emotional-whiplash-of-a-day out of my system. Part of it may be to temporarily frame a moment of time in adjustment to a new city and to recognize the randomness of life.
Whatever the reason, I think today made me feel grateful for the moments of happiness, joy, and laughter my everyday existence can cultivate - that even when the "lowest lows" of human experience can happen, within 30 minutes of it, there can be sparks of joy.
And, maybe, appreciating these moments of joy is when we heal and shine light on those dark moments, inevitable as they are.