Amtrak 501 + Speed = Deaths & Injuries

We heard yesterday, following the tragic Amtrak derailment in Washington state, that “something” was on the track and that this might’ve been the cause of the derailment.  The National Transportation Safety Board has now determined that the train was traveling at 80 miles per hour in a 30 mile per hour zone, and that this appears to have been the cause of the derailment.

“Something” on the track may have been involved but excessive, almost 3 times excessive, speed was the 800 lb. Gorilla that seems the proximate cause of this ‘accident’.  There may have been a health emergency or some other momentary cause that led to this high speed in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The passengers aboard Amtrak 501 were on their way to destinations that probably occupied their thoughts until moments before this crash.  Or, they were daydreaming about Christmas just ahead of them and with whom and where they’d spend that happy time.  Maybe they were fretting over presents yet to be found.  Maybe they were going to a meeting that promised to be difficult.  Maybe they had just had an argument with a spouse or child and were wishing they’d have just held their tongue a bit longer.

This theme has appeared in other of my blogs on other such occasions.  We have no guarantee that we will draw the next breath, much less that we have another week or month or year or decade of life ahead of us.  We are not in control of that clock of life except in those situations where we are simply overwhelmed and decide that ending our life by our own action is the only solution.

I would pray that the victims of this ‘accident’ had not left home following a heated argument, or had just told their spouse they wanted a divorce or yelled at a child for no good reason.  I would pray that the victims had the knowledge they were God’s children with them at that last moment when they had the thought this might be the end for them in this world.

We humans are extremely good at delaying, at putting things off, especially if those things are not pleasant in contemplation.  We don’t necessarily have to be aboard a speeding Amtrak train, or driving on a freeway during ‘rush hour’, or taking risks on snowy and icy roadways for our lives to end.  Our ‘time’ may simply have arrived no matter where we happened to be nor what we were and weren’t doing at the time.  In the case of a lengthy illness, we may have made our wishes known and taken care of the things and situations yet to be resolved.

In the case of an accident, we could well have had no time in which to do much of anything but gasp in fright as we briefly foresee that which is happening over which we have no control.  We might have a fleeting thought about a prayer.  We might have a fleeting thought about something left undone in terms of a relationship, and wishing we’d been better stewards of the time we had up to that moment.

Given the helter-skelter and uncertainties of our daily lives, might we be wiser to be sure we’re as right with others in our lives as is humanly possible?  Might we be wise to make apologies quickly rather than to put that off?  Might our daily lives be better if we were to approach them with smiles rather than frowns?

We get these warnings from the misfortunes of others and yet we seem to avoid taking lessons from them simply because it didn’t happen to us.  And yet we have no idea as to if or when we might leave this life in an instant with no time to repair relationships or to tell others we love them.

From my two years of Latin, which seemed a lifetime then, comes the term ‘Carpe Diem’…”seize the day”.  Seize the day, cherish it, hold it close, tell those in your lives you love them, make amends for careless words that hurt, thank God for the fact that you came to know Him while there was still time.  Carpe Diem

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