Thursday, January 7, 2010

Guest Blogger: Concerned Engineer

I came across your website while reading the article on the tragic death of 14 year-old Anna Marie Stickel. My deepest sympathy goes out to the family and friends of Ms. Stickel. No parents should ever have to bury their child no matter what the circumstances are, but please bear with me while I shed some light on the growing number of trespasser fatalities.

As a Locomotive Engineer, we leave our homes each day not knowing what we are up against. There are no grade crossings, streets, walkways or footpaths that cut across any of the tracks from Boston to Washington, DC. Off corridor, all tracks are protected by gates and cross bucks that are often disregarded by impatient reckless drivers.

The fatalities on the corridor are often people who choose suicide by train because it is quick and painless (I hope). Then there are the teenagers that think it is cool to smoke drugs and drink close to the railroad track, knowing that their parents could never find them down there. They often play chicken on dares with the trains traveling 110-135 mph packed with commuters and families, or  they'll place debris on the rail often causing delays and extensive damage to the equipment. On one recent southbound trip, I passed 3 teenage girls walking in the gauge of the northbound track as if it was their railroad. I blew the horn continuously and they flipped me the bird and kept right on walking. This is sad...VERY SAD. In the location where Ms. Stickel was struck, it is a common shortcut and hangout for teens.

Trespasser fatalities are an Engineer's worst nightmare. No one ever ever thinks of what becomes of that Engineer the day after and how we cope. Our lives are forever changed...sleepless night, inability to perform our jobs without flashbacks and nightmares, months of counseling, divorce, anxiety, suicide, etc.

As a reminder, Amtrak railroad tracks are private property. Parents, schools and the community should educate their children about the dangers of using the railroad as their own personal avenue. Let them know that "that regular shortcut" across the tracks to spare a few minutes can often cost you your life.

I hope that Ms. Stickel's death will not be in vain. 

Thank you,

Concerned Engineer

I received these comments in response to my recent post about the death of Anna Marie Stickel, the 14 year-old who died on Tuesday after being hit by an Amtrak train in Maryland.  They are published here with the author's permission, and I thank her for the inside look at trespasser fatalities on the train crew.  Click here for additional Quarterbacking on train crashes. -- Naomi


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Naomi Zikmund-Fisher
is a clinical social worker, former school Principal and a Crisis Consultant for schools and community organizations. You can learn more about her at
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