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34 Street / Penn Station

A lady in a motorized wheelchair—gray-haired, but not too old-looking—zoomed by in front of me, between me and the subway trackbed, faster than I thought those usually go. In retrospect, I’m not sure if she was awake; I didn’t get a look at her face. My friend and I exchanged raised eyebrows.

We had gotten off the 2 on the uptown local platform. The 2 was running local, as it has every weekend for ages, but we still needed to shift over to the 1 to get back home.

I heard a shout from an MTA worker. I glanced left: the lady in the wheelchair was perhaps ten or fifteen yards away, now between the columns (a couple feet inside the platform from the trackbed) and the still-present train. Then she hit the side of the train as it started to pull out of the station. I was uselessly frozen, watching, as bystanders approached but stayed back, fearful of the train. Awful snapping noises echoed, whether from her wheelchair, from the train’s normal operation, or from worse. I couldn’t tell. The train continued to pull out, and the sounds grew louder as it picked up speed. I willed the train to stop and didn’t think of shouting, but it would probably have had the same effect at that point. Somehow, it threw her from her chair, and tossed her horizontally toward the platform. What looked like the middle of her back caromed against one of the columns, a few feet off the ground, and she fell. The 2 cleared the station.

My friend ducked around a corner so she wouldn’t have to look. From that distance, I couldn’t see anything, but I heard people making calls for help. What seemed like a few minutes passed, with no professional help joining the cluster of riders at her side on the platform. One berated MTA workers for the lack of help, and said that she was alive. I looked away, too.

The 3 came and went on the same track. Service was unaffected. A policeman arrived.

After another minute, the disembodied voice of the MTA reminded us that the 1 was running on the express track. We went down through the underpass, and as we came back up to the express platform we looked straight across the tracks at the scene. My friend gasped and turned, scalded, back toward the downtown side. The lady wasn’t moving—but who knows if she had been before? The uptown 1 arrived, mercifully blocking our view, and we boarded.

Update: two news stories:
Fox
NY Post
If the Post’s claim about disrupted service is true, it happened after we’d left.

2 Comments

  1. Yipes…talk about a concrete jungle….life can certainly be spontaneously cruel….

    Posted on 01-Oct-07 at 3:32 pm | Permalink
  2. Kyle

    That’s pretty shocking. It must have taken a lot for you to put it down in words.

    Posted on 24-Oct-07 at 11:23 am | Permalink

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