posted on Nov, 2 2007 @ 03:29 PM
NEVER TOO LATE
This is a true story and my first one here. I am sharing it because I feel the need to do so. It's not big on metaphor, and simple in style.
Sometimes I think this is best.
I had spent a quiet weekend at a friend’s cottage in a quiet country area of the Czech Republic, and now it was time to head back to Prague. When I
boarded the train from Plzen on Sunday, February 26th 1995, I had no idea that this journey was going to change my life.
A few minutes later our train came to a stop at the next station, and because my friend and I were chatting, it was a while before we realized that we
were still stationary. We glanced around and saw that the other passengers were also wondering about the delay. Seven minutes later, the conductress
entered our carriage and as she walked through she announced in a rather bored and resigned voice that there had been an accident and we would
probably be delayed for some time, so we could get off if we wished; another train was being brought out for us to continue our journey.
We got off with the other passengers and stood around on the bare platform, peering down towards the front of the train some distance away and
thinking that the locomotive must have hit a car or something. Maybe half a minute went by before a fellow passenger pointed at our own carriage –
or rather, she pointed under it, raising her other hand to her mouth as she exclaimed “Pane Boze…Pane Boze!” (Lord God…Lord God!)
Then I saw her – a woman, quite young, lying sprawled face-down on the cold, hard stones between the rails. She had been hit by the train, hit so
hard that she had been literally knocked out of her winter boots. They were lying beside her, and she was lying directly beneath where I and my
friend had been sitting.
It was several seconds before I understood that no-one was doing anything to help her. The conductress was nearby, methodically collecting all the
things from her handbag that were strewn here and there by the rails along the edge of the platform. Because my Czech was very limited I asked my
friend to ask her what was happening: why was nobody doing anything? She explained that the driver had already checked the woman’s pulse, and
not finding any, he had then gone back to his carriage and called through to advise of the accident and asked them to send an ambulance and a
I couldn’t think of anything to say.
The conductress showed me the woman’s driving license. Her name was Petra and she came from the next village down the line. She was just twenty
So there I was, looking at this young woman named Petra, aged twenty, and now pronounced dead by a train driver and lying between the tracks under his
train. She truly looked as if...well, if she were lying anywhere else you would never imagine what had just happened to her.
“But this is a human being,” I thought to myself. “This is somebody’s daughter. She has people who love her, and she’s just
been left to lie there as if nobody cares. What if she were my daughter, and I learned that nobody did anything at all, but just left her there
and stood chatting a few metres away?”
Then I became aware of the screams. Her friend had been on the platform and had seen everything. Now, as she really began to comprehend but her mind
rejected that understanding, she was screaming…
We later found out that Petra had crossed the tracks and hadn’t seen our locomotive just as it was arriving around the bend. She’d been wearing
earmuffs against the chill air and they’d blocked out the sounds that would have saved her. Petra had no time to run and didn’t even have a chance
to scream before it hit her. But now, her friend was screaming while others held her and kept her away, down at the far end of the platform…
I heard those screams just going on and on and it was unbearable. I had to do something. At least try… By chance a nursing sister was there
among the passengers and she agreed to go with me, and so the two of us crawled under the carriage to where Petra lay.
The sister checked her then shook her head, very gently, tears in her eyes. Perhaps a few minutes sooner there might have been a chance, some trace of
hope, but not now. I touched Petra’s cheek, still warm even in this cold air, then, very gently, I took hold of her and began to turn her so,
holding her so she would not be lying with her face to the cold ground. If this were my daughter I would want someone to hold her.
At least that.
Oh, she was beautiful, truly one of the loveliest women I have ever seen. Her face was almost perfect, with just a small trickle of blood where she
had hurt her lower lip. Her eyes were wide open and I felt utter and crushing sadness as I looked into them, her beautiful, deep, brown eyes staring
into the distance. There was no fear in those eyes. They showed a sense of quiet surprise and something like wonder, as if she had seen far, far
beyond what was really there…and perhaps had understood what was about to be…and had accepted it.
I wished I knew her language so I could tell her something. But then, I understood that now it didn’t matter what language I used, so I whispered to
her in English, “Petra, it’s okay…Don’t be afraid…You’re not alone…It’s okay...You’re not alone…”
Then it happened. As I held her still cradled in my arms, her face now up towards Heaven, Petra exhaled. I heard that single, soft, gentle sigh and
saw the last breath leave her mouth, a small cloud of warmer, moist air in that dry, freezing cold, and I knew in that moment that she was truly gone.
She had probably taken in that breath as she saw what was coming, and somehow, her lungs forever stilled and her heart at rest, she’d held it in for
over ten minutes, then as I turned and held her, Petra let it go: the very last breath she would ever take in this life.
I cannot express to you what I felt. No words can.
Supporting her head, I gently laid her down. Now, she was truly gone: but how I wished I could have captured that last breath that she’d held for so
long! I wished I could keep it somehow, not to imprison it, but to take that small part of her essence of life with me and show her sunrises and
sunsets and spring-times and summers and distant shores and beauties of this world, all the wonders that now she would never see. But it had gone,
that breath, like Petra had gone, vanished and unreachable.
(Continued in next post)
[edit on 2-11-2007 by JustMike]