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A Train Accident

posted Sep 7, 2010, 11:14 AM by Quoc-Anh Vuong   [ updated Sep 19, 2010, 2:01 PM ]
Last weekend, Labor Day weekend, we were very excited & happy that Bảo decided to come home. Actually, we were excited several weeks prior. We booked the train ticket online almost a month ahead of time. The train ticket is very reasonable, around $30! That's less than the cost of gasoline for the same distance. So, no sweat! The Carolinian train route will pick Bảo up in Raleigh, North Carolina station at 11am on Saturday and arrived at Alexandria, Virginia station around 5pm. We were looking forward to the Labor Day holiday weekend. For me, two weeks straight, I counted down the days. It's hard not to think about that weekend, about of what we were going to do. Ideas were tossing around, "should we watch movie" or "should we go out, visiting some place"... or "should we just relax, and veg out". We decided to just go with the flow, no detailed planning for a change. Friday afternoon, while chatting with Bảo, I asked the typical question: "It's Friday, what's the plan?". Bảo told me that he wanted to go to bed early, so that he can wake up & get the to station early on Saturday. I did not expect that at all. Tried very hard to hide my emotional to continue the conversation. I was touched.

Even though I had at least another hour to sleep in, but Saturday morning, I woke up early. Our task for that morning was to distribute the mulch around the yard. So, Thuỵ was at the shoveling position, I am the hauler: pushing the wheelbarrow & dumping the mulch, and Huong was to level the mulch with the rake. Huân was playing the backup position, helping one of us until he's bore and move on to help at another position. It was around 2pm when the phone rang, Bảo called: There was an accident, the train hit someone, so it's going to be about 2hrs late. We were done with the yard work, and it was still hours to the pick-up time. Because of the sweat and mulch dust, we went took shower, and still it was not time to go just yet. Then came another call, the train will be delayed longer, since the police & conductors could not find the body! We went online, and there was only one short news break about this accident: "A male adult was struck by train, in Chesterfield, VA". Around 6pm, and the train started moving and the online status was updated to be arrived in Alexandria station around 8pm. We was quite anxious. At 7:30pm, we head off to the station.

The train station is in the East side of the Old Town Alexandria, opposite the Masonic Temple; which I have no clue of what Masonic is, and .. no desire to find out (OK, may be one of these rainy days). We planned getting to the station about 5 minute early, so that we can walk around the station, so we thought!. The station is not that big, so ... it's only take around a minute to cover the inside, check out old wooden seats in the waiting area, and ended up out on the platform. Finally, the train arrived. Bảo had his red NCSU t-shirt. We settled in the van, and drove to a Phở Golden Cow, which opens late. Yes, there were questions and Bảo were busy answering, telling us about the dorm, friends, the people there, ... the sweet teas. I was sitting back, sipping my Vietnamese ice coffee, thinking: It's funny! North Carolina is only 5hrs away, but to us, it's a whole different world, and we want to know only through Bảo's view and no one else. That night, lying in bed, I felt so peaceful.

Sunday morning came. Having my usual morning coffee and clearing up my email in-box; I started to plan my day. But then I realized that I should go with the flow, no planning. I'll do whatever Bảo, or Thuỵ wants me to do. I will be in the backseat today, and will happily do whatever and whoever wants me to do. In the morning, I drove Bảo, Thuỵ & Huân out the Chantilly, for Bảo to buy his keyboard which he found on the local Craig's List. He negotiated, and got $50 knocked off from the original $200 asking price. The keyboard is quite nice, with stand, and case, ... fairly complete; and it even works! While waiting, I went to Target with Huân and treat ourselves, each with a toy! Huân got his "Mister Evil Doctor Pork Chop", a character in Toy Story 3 which he went and watched with Bảo & Thuỵ few months ago (while I & Hương watched another movie). For me, I got for me a Monopoly Bookcase Version! Yes, I am obsessed with Monopoly. We then went to Chinese restaurant for lunch, a treat from Hương's sisters, to welcome Bảo home visit. We ate so much that we no longer want to go anywhere, or do anything afterward. We went home, rest a bit. Late in the afternoon, we decided to stay home & watch Avatar, a movie which Bảo watched twice, and Thuỵ once; but both did not mind to sit and watch with me again. Hương made dinner, and we all brought our bowl of food to the TV, watch & eat. The movie was 3hrs long, but we did not mind at all. Thuỵ & Bảo retreated into the bedroom, playing video games, and I had a feeling that they wanted to enjoy few hours by themselves, catching up on brotherhood bonding. I let them be. I can hear laughing & talking that night in Bảo bedroom, drifting into sleep. It's already Sunday night! I realized.

Monday morning. I woke up at 7am, and did not want to wake up the Bảo or Thuỵ. I wanted them to sleep in a bit more, for they stayed up late last night.

9AM, only 2 more hours, and Bảo will take the train back to NCSU. Bảo woke up (perhaps because of my loud sneezes) around 5min later. He started packing, and we were all pitched in to help. Dish washing soap, lotion, sweaters, jacket, umbrella ... etc. All fit into one carry-on luggage, and a backpack. Bảo decided to leave the newly bought keyboard, and we will bring down for him on the next trip. Time went by so quick, it's 10:30am, and we have to rush out of the house. We got there just in time to see the train arriving. The conductor set down the a little stool for people to step up into the car. There were other families, waving to their sons and daughters; so were we. Walking outside along the train, we were in-step with Bảo inside the car, walking to find his seat. The train pulled out, with a loud and long whistling sound. Huân covered his ears. We walked to the van, talking about it would be fun if we can also take the train to visit Bảo next time. We went home, and it's was only around noon. What are we going to do, to occupy ourselves for the rest of the day? I was thinking.  It was a long weekend, but how come the time was quite short? I am stumped.

In the evening, Hương called me out, showed me the news article about the man, who was killed by the train on Saturday. According to the report, the victim was a soldier and he could not hear the train blaring warning horn, for lost his hearing on his left ear during the tour in Iraq, his striker got blown up. He was honorable discharged from the Army with PTSD, and he usually spend time walking to clear his mind with his headphone on loud. The police found his body under the train, mangled, identified only by his tattoo. And here is the final blow: he was just married 6 months ago, and a father-to-be. How can a wonderful weekend for us, can be such a tragic lost for another family? As usual, I have no answer.