Yesterday, I posted this without any text or explanation. I was using it as a quick repository to share with reporters. I was on an Orange line train (sometime before 9:39, which is when I wrote an e-mail to my beau) heading to Rosslyn for an interview when a part of a brake in the train ahead of mine hit the electrified third rail. It caused a bunch of smoke, gigantic sparks/flames, and a bit of panic in the train. Most people were pretty damn chill--it was actually fun in some ways, because we were just sitting around joking and ribbing on Metro.
There are plenty of articles from news sources out there, so I'm just going to focus on my own fun experience.
First, I'll start with transcriptions of a couple e-mails I wrote to my beau detailing a few of the more fun experiences.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011 9:39 AM
Subject: Fire on my train
Tuesday, December 20, 2011 10:15 AM
Subject: 40 minutes later...
Message: The train stopped. It started getting smoky. The door to the next car opened and a wryly smiling man said "The next car's on fire." We started walking toward the last car while one woman freaked out, we were all milling and joking. Then we finally decided to open the door (keep in mind that the driver has not yet contacted us, so we were unsure what to do) and walk back to L'Enfant. But four people were walking back toward the train, telling us Metro employees said to get back into the train because the air quality was too poor outside the train. So instead, we are sitting here in a smoky train inhaling all these fumes for an unknown amount of time. The driver came on the speakers and said "Help is on the way." We're like, "Um, it's been 40 minutes. Why aren't they HERE?"
And he just came back on and said that help is on the way--still. Anyway. Maybe eventually I'll get to my interview.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011 10:50 AM
Subject: "If we're anywhere near a platform, we'll get you off the train."
Message: Serious? They don't know where we are???
Lol these people on the train with me are awesome. We are joking and laughing.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011 11:08 AM
Subject: I just videotaped our channel 4 news live interview
Tuesday, December 20, 2011 11:25 AM
Subject: Oh no!
Message: I've been told I must take my stilettos off when I get to the ladder in 30 minutes. Damnit!
And now some photos!
Milling around wondering what to do--no word from the train conductor, emergency buttons weren't working, and we weren't sure whether it was safe to leave the train or not. Not that that stopped some people (read below).
I ended up wrangling open an emergency door (some didn't work) and tried to walk back to the platform, but I was told by returning train riders that Metro employees told them to get back on the train--the air quality was too poor in the tunnel and it was safer on the train. For 2 hours, we breathed the smoky air (some doors were open, remember?) and as we lined up to evacuate hours later, I asked why the track lights had just gone out--I was told by a fire fighter that they were operating on batteries that last only 2 hours. The electrified third rail had shorted out and the power was turned off when our train hit the other part on the rail. There was no actual danger, really, from the get-go--we should have left.
Anyway, we milled around for a while. I ate my bagel and drank my coffee. 30 or 40 minutes into the ordeal, the conductor finally came on to say that Metro was looking into what happened and that we should stay calm. Once he stopped his five-second spurt of lip-flapping, the train riders around me went up in a roar about how frustrating that was--waiting so long for any contact with Metro or our conductor, and all we got was "We're looking into what happened, stay calm"?
A little after 11, fire fighters came around to tell us they were starting to evacuate the train. I was in the last car with passengers, so it took a while. I tried taking pictures of people walking down the tunnel.
This one was a bit better.
For the number of emergency-response vehicles blocking traffic around the Smithsonian metro exit, we surely didn't have the help we would have expected down in the tunnel. I admit, the four or five fire fighters down there with us were great--they were just as frustrated with Metro as we were (they couldn't get the emergency doors open, either).
Next up, videos.
This video is an example of the awesome people in the train car with me. We were joking left and right, keeping it together without losing our composure. The set up for this joke is that Metro had already reported to news organizations that all passengers had been evacuated. We were postulating ways they'd deal with us. The most popular theory was that they would just seal up the tunnel with us inside and deny that the Orange line ever existed.
This is our live interview with News 4. When we learned that Metro was lying about us being down here, putting their spin on the incident (calling it an "obstruction" rather than an "equipment malfunction and crazy sparky-flame-smoke") and trying to look better than their actions would paint them, we called news organizations to let them know that we were, in fact, still trapped underground.
When we finally got out of the train, there were almost as many fire fighters, police officers, news crews, and Metro employees as there were train passengers. It took them 2.5 hours to get in line and find flashlights to guide us out, it seemed--we weren't told they were doing anything else.