New York-based media (well, at least WNYC, NPR’s local affiliate) is still pretty caught up in the Metro North accident that happened on Sunday…AND SO AM I.
Whenever I travel, people are always like, “Ugh, people in New York think that every time something happens there it’s so much more important than the much worse stuff that happens all over the country.” Which may be true. But you have to remember that millions of people live in New York, so the noise they make about a local event is going to be much louder than in most other places.
For a lot of people, the Metro North accident was extremely personal, because they take Metro North every day to commute to their jobs in the city. My own father has been doing exactly that every weekday morning for the past 25 years. Interesting fact — 10 million people commute into New York every day from the suburbs, many of them on Metro North. That’s three times larger than the population of Los Angeles, which is the second most populated city in America…BITCHES.
Anyway, what makes me sad is not thinking about my own father, or family members, or friends, being hurt in a similar accident, because the chances of that are extremely small. Rather, it’s reading the story of Kisook Ahn, one of the four people who died in the accident.
I don’t know what it is, but any time over the past year when there has been a horrific tragedy, it’s the death of outsiders that has really gotten to me. The Chinese exchange student in the Boston bombing. The Chinese teenagers on the runway at SFO. Kisook Ahn, an immigrant from South Korea awaiting her green card, on the banks of the Hudson River. There’s something about thinking about these women, so far from home, losing their lives in a place that does not know them, where their families receive the news of their death in a long-distance phone call.
The grief is magnified by the fact that Ahn was a nurse who took care of newborns at Sunshine Children’s Home and Rehab Center.
I picture her finishing her shift. In a hospital warm and dark. The newborns in her ward are breathing shallowly. She puts on her warm coat, and gathers her things. She walks the distance to the train station, through a suburban town sleeping. The trees are bare. The grass is crunchy with frost. The air is gray and frigid. She waits in a heated compartment on the tracks. Her legs, beneath cotton pants, grow numb. She barely registers that it’s a holiday weekend, because she’s only been in this country for five years.
On the train, she gets a window seat, and closes her eyes. The seats are hard, red and maroon, but she uses her scarf as a pillow. She thinks about a cup of tea she’ll have at home, some toast, a leftover meal. Her roommates, waking up to a Sunday. A shower, and then, the blinds drawn, a long sleep. She hears the conductor announce the approach into the Bronx, but barely registers it because she’s half-dreaming. She never wakes up. Her death is quick and painless.
I’ll say a prayer for Kisook Ahn today because she’s not anonymous to me.