Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Chicago commuters breathe heavily
During yesterday afternoon's rush hour, the last carriage of one of the Blue Line subway trains (travelling in the direction of O'Hare airport) derailed and a small fire started, filling the subway tunnel and all the carriages with dense, black smoke.
Tuning into Fox TV in readiness for my daily fix of "The Simpsons", I was instead glued to the TV as the drama unfolded and stunned passengers were being evacuated into the streets via manholes. Before I'd heard any of the news coverage, the images I was absorbing took me straight back to London, one year ago. Confused commuters, organised chaos, ambulance sirens blaring.
But you know what? As the news desk crossed live to its reporter and the stories came flooding in, and despite every effort of the TV anchor to be alarmist and mentally will people to say the word "TERRORISM", no one was really that panicked. Sure they were stunned, but not panicked. Everyone who was interviewed was adamant that they had experienced a train derailment and expressed gratitude to fellow commuters that everyone cooperated well and helped each other. No one was jumping to any evil conclusions or suspecting foul play. It seemed only the TV anchor had these suspicions. And I was ready to call the network and have him sacked.
I suppose on the back of the recent Sears Tower terrorist plot that saturated the media the other week, Chicagoans are right to be 'alert but not alarmed'. But last night's public transportation drama just highlighted why Chicago rocks. In times of crisis and uncertainty, when confusion is reigning all around, people will join hands and help each other up a manhole.
Group hug everyone. Now back to work.