How Witnessing A Stranger's Train Suicide Changed My Entire Life
Originally published on ThoughtCatalog.com
A commute to work can be long, dull, relaxing, frustrating, or all of the above. But an hour’s commute, whilst looking out the window to beautiful Essex countryside, can be used for a time of reflection and gratitude.
On an otherwise grey Monday morning, I woke up early, got dressed, and ate my porridge breakfast in preparation to conquer the day. Finally, I thought, I don’t feel exhausted after the weekend. I was looking forward to work and planning ahead for the rest of the week.
I boarded my usual 7:45am train and sat in my usual seat and decided I would forego wearing my headphones and enjoy the natural sounds of commuting, in a bid to stay present and mindful. I suffer with anxiety and depression most days and it was particularly difficult on this Monday morning.
The 7:45am train is the fast train, so it passes through a lot of stations bar a few where it picks up commuters along the way. Speeding along the tracks towards Basildon, we hear a sudden screeching and crunching noise, and train turbulence – what felt like a derailment. My heart jumped out of my chest as I clutched on to the gentleman next to me bracing for what I thought would cost me my life.
Instead, the train slowly came to a halt. We all looked at each other, with one woman looking like she was almost having a heart attack, feeling thankful and almost in disbelief that we were still alive. The train was stationary for about 30 minutes before our driver's voice quietly came out of the tannoy.
Apologies for the delay but someone has jumped in front of the train. There was nothing I could do, and I have called the emergency services so there will be a delay. I haven’t had any experience with this before but I am sorry for the delay.
Gasps, tears, and screams consumed the carriage as we noticed bits of a broken corpse outside the window beside the tracks. I closed my eyes and prayed that it was all a bad dream, that it was just a nightmare I’d soon wake up from.
We were on the train for what felt like 12 hours, waiting for the emergency services who turned up almost suddenly with sirens blazing and blue lights flashing, rushing down the aisles of the train carriage informing us of the situation. Eventually they moved us to another carriage so we didn’t have to witness the removal of the body, but by we were already traumatized.
About an hour passed, and the poor driver, obviously in a very distressed way, told us we would be on the move but would have to change trains at the next station. I couldn’t wait to get off the train. I couldn’t stop crying.
Soon after, we arrived at the next station and were asked to exit the train to move further down the carriages to avoid the blood splattered carriage we were on. Eventually we arrived at Laindon, where I exited the train to board another, which I struggled to do, and instead I sat on the platform and wailed. I wailed and wailed and wailed. The pain I felt, the hurt I felt, the guilt I felt.
I experienced a stranger’s suicide.
Now, the funny thing about stranger suicides is that when you’re not on the train that hits the victim, you huff, puff, and tut your way into work over how late you are and how inconvenienced you are. Look, we’ve all been there. That meeting you’re supposed to chair? Cancel it. That breakfast meeting you’ve got scheduled with a client? Nope, cancel it. Oh, that interview you’re late for? You better cancel that too.
But despite all these things inconveniencing your life, have you ever considered how inconvenienced and traumatized the train driver will be? How devastating it will be for the victim’s family to receive the death knock? How witnesses will be affected by what they’ve seen, heard, and felt?
The sad thing is that there was nothing anyone could do. The person had made their decision, carried it out, and was successful.
I felt guilt. I felt cold and numb. I didn’t even know this person yet I still felt an empowering connection to them. I wish there could’ve been something I could’ve done to stop it. I don’t know, perhaps delayed the train or somehow convinced the drivers to go on strike that day.
In reality though, it was out of everyone’s hands, but I can’t help but think about it. I keep getting flashbacks, constantly hearing the crunching noise being replayed in my ears over and over again. The sirens of the police and ambulance as they arrived at the scene. The traumatized face of the paramedic who had quite clearly not experienced this before either. The blood. This was not the first time I saw a dead body but the first time I had seen it actually happen before my eyes. For once, I’m struggling to even describe it on paper, I can’t even seem to get these words out of my mouth without stuttering uncontrollably.
I’m still in disbelief, in shock, and I’m still grieving.
Some may argue that you can’t mourn a stranger because you have no connection to them. You don’t know their name, their age, what their profession is, what their favorite color is. But it’s similar to mourning celebrities right? And as far as I’m concerned, and correct me if I’m wrong, but being human connects us, does it not?
Someone gave up their life because they felt there was no other way out. That was their only option. It’s heartbreaking to know that this is the option people are taking. Taking their own lives at such a young age.
I know how this person felt because I’ve been there. I know how it feels to have the black cloud consume you to the point where you feel there’s no way out. But instead, I was miraculously saved, something I wish could have happened to this person. He deserved to live, he deserved another chance.
But it kinda puts life into perspective. Witnessing a suicide made me realize how short life is when your problems consume you.
But this is why we need to talk openly about how we feel and turn feelings and emotions into real life conversations so no one suffers in silence. No one should feel judged. No one should be called a moron for taking their own life because they just so happened to make you late for work.
There will always be another day for you to go to work. There will always be another meal for you to eat. There will always be another holiday you’ll enjoy.
For the victim, the victim’s family and everyone involved or witness to the tragic incident, their lives will have changed forever. They will always have that incident ingrained into their memory forever.
So, remember that next time you huff, puff, and tut into work because someone’s death inconvenienced your life.