Tuesday, August 30, 2011

California Zephyr: "Words cannot express ..."

With all the discordant news that bombards us daily, reading about the overwhelming community response to the recent derailment of the California Zephyr in Nebraska, how wonderful to realize there is still a heart in America.

I ran across a series of e-mails, shared between one of the passengers, Anonymous, and emergency responders ...


I'm from the Boston area and was a passenger on the train along with my wife and 2 year old daughter. The rapid and effective response coupled with hospitality unlike anything that I've felt before drove me to write a letter to President Obama with the Governor of NE cc'd. I've never written a letter to a public official before.

Here's the last paragraph which I think sums it up...

"I’m now on a bus to Lincoln, NE, gazing out into the cornfields that I have usually and unwittingly labeled as boring and uneventful. I have a new and profound appreciation for these fields and find myself searching for the homes and barns scattered across the landscape as I now understand that the people inside are what make up America’s great heartland.

It’s interesting how powerful experiences such as these shape our lives. I was quite stressed yesterday morning not knowing how my daughter would cope with such an experience, how my family and I would get to Chicago or where we would stay for the night; yet less than 12 hours later I’m grateful for the experience as me and my family have new friends, more reasons to be thankful and many more memories to cherish than to forget as a result of the experience.

And most importantly, we have an understanding of what the “heartland” is all about thanks to the people of Dundy County, Nebraska and surrounding areas whom came together, exemplified what is good in this nation and touched our hearts in such a profound way. I’m proud to be an American today."

Cindy on Aug 27, 2011 in reply to Anonymous:
All I can say is WOW!

Your words have absolutely touched my heart. As I read them to myself I began to cry, not in sadness, but in pride of our wonderful town of Benkelman. I was at the High School volunteering and I had the privileged to meet many of the passengers and train staff.

Just as you have described what an impact we made on you, please know that each of you have eternally made an impact on all of us. To the anonymous writer, Thank You!

Vince on Aug 27, 2011 in reply to Anonymous:
I am one of the responders who was on scene, and later at the high school in the command center. We live in a area where 90% of our calls, are taking one of our cherished elderly citizens from the nursing home to the hospital. We just never have things of this magnitude happen here.

Well that is until yesterday. When the call came in my stress level jumped. As I got to the ambulance barn I told myself that I had to calm down or I would be no good to anyone. In route I talked with my wife trying to calm her fears. (She is a fellow EMT) that I am proud to call my wife. Talking with her trying to calm her was just as effective on me as her. I was scared, not so much by the wreck itself as the fear there was going to be people that I could not help.

When we arrived on scene and found that it was not as bad as I had prepared for, it was just like any other call, find people in need and get them stable and to the hospital. As we got to the school and talking with passengers, I can truly tell you my life has been touched. Everyone involved in some way touched a life that day.

As responders we touched a life in some way and from passengers and crew my life was touched 192 times! I am proud to be a part of this experience, and if I never make another run all the classes and sleepless nights will have been worth every second. Thank you Anonymous for recognizing our actions, but also thank you and the others for touching our lives as well.

Rick on Aug 29, 2011 in reply to Anonymous:
I was one of the first emergency responders on scene, and I can honestly say, initially the sight of over a hundred passengers and potential victims were overwhelming. The Amtrak crew should be highly commended as well! Their first thoughts were of the passengers, many of them ignoring their own injuries till later.

There was a fire fighter from California, a passenger, by the name of Joe, who offered assistance and was a great help...one of many unsung heroes that day...I wish I had got more information from him....but that wasn't a consideration at the time.

At one point, later in the morning, I looked up the road, and was shocked to see emergency vehicles lined up for a mile....coming from McCook, Indianola, Imperial, Wauneta, Stratton, Culbertson, Palisade, Cheyenne County, Ks, Wray, Co., and I'm sure others that I can't name now.

The assistance and willingness to help, and just compassion is why I moved here years ago. My pride in our little community of Dundy County has never been so strong. From the Benkelman EMS and Fire Dept., to all of our neighboring cities and the businesses that contributed to help care for the passengers.

Not one person complained; all were proud to have joined in. I am honored to be part of this community. Rick Starks, Crew Chief, Haigler Ambulance.

See Also:
California Zephyr: Two Related Events

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