Thursday, May 07, 2009
Changing the sound of the train
From my fifth-floor apartment, I hear trains sounding their horns, all day and into the night.
I used to like the sound. It's just a commuter rail line, but those long, low signals reminded me of speed, of my favorite cities, of travel to exciting new places.
Now the trains sound mournful, even threatening, and I think about the despair of a boy, a stranger to me.
Two days ago, a 16-year-old high-school student was killed at a train crossing, in what appears to have been a suicide.
As I sat in my car at a red light, taking my son to school, this boy's life ended, a stone's throw away. When I passed the crossing a few minutes later, on my way home, the police cars and ambulances were just arriving.
The Web site of the local newspaper contains an outpouring of shock and grief. Classmates and parents post tributes to the boy, and condolences to his family and friends. All describe him as friendly, funny, bright and caring. Could he not see how much he was valued? Or was it just not enough to hold him here?
I can't get away from the sound of the trains, so I am trying to change the meaning of that sound.
What I'm trying to hear is, simply: stop for a moment. Be here now. Feel the sun and the breeze, hear all the sounds. Gaze at the mountains, taste the food, sit in comfort, write with a pen, dance on strong legs, talk with a friend.
And I keep returning to the words of the boy's high-school principal, in a message to her stricken community: "It is very, very important that we look out for each other... No problem is so big that a solution cannot be found if people ask for help and support. Please look after and take care of each other. Each of you is precious to us."