Sunday, March 27, 2011

Incident at 96th Street: The Third Rail

Today while I was returning from a practica at Dardo Galletto studios, the A train arrived just as I reached the platform.  I thanked my lucky stars for having a short wait.  Together with a herd of other New Yorkers I boarded the already full train.  I was soon cursing those same lucky stars.  Full trains and crowded platforms mean one thing:  the train is experiencing delays.  We sat on the platform for twenty minutes.  The conductor remained mute.  He made no announcements explaining the delay, no repeated promises offering hope that the train would soon be on its way. 

Finally, the doors tentatively closed.  They slapped open and closed five more times before they made a final, successful attempt.  The train sputtered to life, chugging slowly beneath the Upper West Side. Around 96th street, it stalled again.  Then it inched past the subway platform at 96th street.  Someone muttered something about a body bag.  I was wearing earplugs (the decibel level in the New York City subway system is above the level deemed safe in some factories).  I pretended not to hear, imagined that the man referred to some other body bag, somewhere else, at some other time.  I had my back to the subway platform.  I didn't try to look.  Everyone in the train remained silent.  No one crooned necks, no one played a peeping tom to someone else's tragedy.  There has been too much bad news lately, in the Middle East, in Japan, with the economy, hell, we might as well throw in China while we're at it.  Personally, I have been dealing with a coop board whose recalcitrance has got me questioning my faith in others.

After 96th street the train made speedy progress to 168th St., where a woman boarded, sat across from me, and asked, how long have you been on this train?  I replied, forever.  I paused to consider whether I should fill in the gap, and then did, someone said there was a body bag.  That broke the silence.  The woman next to me (who had boarded at 125th St.), added, someone jumped, or was pushed, onto the tracks.  I was on the C train.  They made us get off and go upstairs while they turned off the electricity [the third rail carries very high, usually lethal voltage], and retrieved the body.  The woman across from me, shocked and seeking communion in her distress, looked me directly in the eye.  Sometimes words fail me.  I stuttered.  I leaned forward, distracted.  As I did so, an item fell out of the plastic bag I held on my lap.  A man standing near me bent over and picked it up.  Without saying a word, he tapped me on the arm with it, returning it to me.  I had not realized the loss.

That brought back the silence.  Such is life in New York City:  the tragedies and triumphs of life lived in the open,  the fleeting, subterranean sense of community.

Resources for those affected by this, and similar, events:

Samaritans of New York: For those in crisis, for friends and family affected by the suicide of a loved one, and to increase awareness about this issue:
www.samaritansnyc.org
Samaritans 24-hr crisis hotline: 212-673-3000

For those in crisis, or needing more information about suicide and related issues:
LIFENET: 1-800-LIFENET
http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/cis/cis_lifenet.shtml

To find a counselor or therapist:
www.findcounseling.com

To find a suicide or crisis hotline in your state:
www.suicidehotlines.com

National Suicide Hotlines:
1-800-SUICIDE, or 1-800-273-TALK     

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi, my name is Stephanie, I was in the C train which was stopped at 96th street. My boyfriend and I, were sitting in the last car of the train. Arriving at 96th st, the train made a surprisingly slow stop. Then someone on the microphone asked everyone to move to the front of the train. Light was shut down. While we moved from one car to the next, someone noticed that a cop was standing on the plateform edge with a flashlight. We kept moving in silence. Another cop enter the car and said "DOn't look down". IT was too late for me. I had looked down already while moving between cars. My boyfriend saw my face, and understood right away what I had just seen. I started crying. I couldn't stand on my feet. I almost threw up on the way to the street level. It was a prefect sunday afternoon in NYC. I will never forget that sunny sunday.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I too was on the C train when this occurred. As the train was pulling into the 96th street station and the way it came to a stop. I had a bad feeling abt it. One being someone pulled the emergency break or something els happened(which was the case). So the train conductor had all the passengers walk from the rear to the front of the car. As I stepped out, there was a small crowd of ppl standing on the platform looking down at the tracks. I stopped briefly but saw nothing and kept walking. It's sad, my condolences to his/her family.

Anonymous said...

I entered the 96th Street station just as workers from the ME's office were removing the body, all bagged up, on a stretcher. This was around 8PM. A group of women asked the cop on the platform whether someone had died. He said that a woman had jumped in front of the train as it was entering the station. They know she did it intentionally because she left a note, which they found in her bag. One of the women asked whether she was young. The cop said she was 26 years old. There was a long trail of sudsy water running north from the area where the body had been, and one of the workers who had cleaned up had discarded a pair of blue plastic gloves there.

Anonymous said...

I was on that train too. I was in the second car to the last. After walking through a few cars, I happened to look down when I was walking in between the cars just because I was being careful with my steps. It didn't really hit me until a few seconds later.I started shivering when I realized what happened. I felt awful for the train conductor. It was the worst experience ever. I am also surprised this was not on news.

Veronica Hackethal said...

Thank you all for sharing your stories. I, too, am wondering why we did not hear about this on the news. Everything was silence, in our subway car and afterwards. My deepest sympathies for those in the subway car that was evacuated, for the conductor, and for that poor soul who passed away. May she rest in peace. There are times when reality takes on sharp edges in this great, wonderful, monster of a city of ours. But then, just down the line and around the corner, those edges begin to sparkle again. Like diamonds.

Anonymous said...

My daughter and I were on that C train as well. My heart aches for this young woman and those she left behind while my daughter and I are working to shed the gruesome images that are now fixed in our minds. My sympathies to all of us who unwittingly played a part in her death.

Anonymous said...

I'm the person who left the third comment; I arrived in the station as they were removing the body from the platform, and I heard the cop say it was a suicide. I'd like to address the issue of why this was not on the news. I think it was not on the news because it was a suicide. If she had been pushed or even if she had just fallen accidentally, I think it would have been more likely to appear on the news. But as a society we are embarrassed by suicide and depression. We're not supposed to talk about or acknowledge those things. Yes, every now and then you may hear about a jumper on the tracks, but I think you're way more likely to hear about a push or a fall. And I think this happens much more frequently than we realize. This is the second time I've been a "secondary witness" to something like this. The first time was about eight years ago in Chicago. I went to my regular train station, an el station, to find the whole surrounding intersection filled with emergency vehicles and bystanders. The trains were stopped. A woman had jumped in front of a train, and the driver had been unable to stop in time. There was no mention of what happened on the news that time, either.

Anonymous said...

I found your blog because I was searching to find information.

The girl who jumped in front of the train was named Veronica. She was beautiful. No one had any idea she was in so much pain and was struggling. Everyone that knows her is surprised.

Veronica was beautiful.

Anonymous said...

I was a friend of the girl who died. I also came across this looking for news, which there has been literally none. While searching for answers, it's also helpful to have just the details of the event. So thanks for posting this.

Anonymous said...

I wish there was a place to mourn the passing of a beautiful person...

Veronica Hackethal said...

My deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the woman who passed away. I am at a loss for words. I agree with the person who said that there should be more awareness and acknowledgement about suicide and depression. There are resources, but in New York City (and perhaps others?), they don't seem to be advertised as much as perhaps they should be. Here are a few resources, in case they can help someone:

Samaritans of New York: For those in crisis, for friends and family affected by the suicide of a loved one, and to increase awareness about this issue:
www.samaritansnyc.org
Samaritans 24-hr crisis hotline: 212-673-3000

For those in crisis, or needing more information about this issue:
LIFENET: 1-800-LIFENET
http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/cis/cis_lifenet.shtml

To find a counselor or therapist:
www.findcounseling.com

To find a suicide or crisis hotline in your state:
www.suicidehotlines.com

National Suicide Hotlines:
1-800-SUICIDE, or 1-800-273-TALK

Anonymous said...

I am another friend of Veronica's who would like to thank you for posting this. I too was searching for any information -- part of me wanted to find something that would disprove what I knew to be true. But seeing the comments, which matched up with the details I already knew...I still cannot understand how this is true of the person I knew. But again, I want to thank you for posting this because we have had virtually no way of finding out any information about the passing of our beloved friend.

Anonymous said...

http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/34/14/wb_boehmsuicide_2011_4_8_bk.html

Anonymous said...

I am also a friend of Veronica's. We are all left speachless... everybody that knew her would describe her as beautiful, funny, energetic and a wonderful photographer.
I found this today.. it's too damn sad. I really feel so horrible for her family. And for those on the train, including the conductor. My life is altered by the knowledge of her passing, but it would be shaken much harder if I had been a witness.

http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/34/14/wb_boehmsuicide_2011_4_8_bk.html

Anonymous said...

She had such a rare spark. Anyone who encountered Veronica couldn't help but fall in love with her. This is a true loss.

Anonymous said...

I barely knew Veronica but I was shaken by this news.

My thoughts and prayers go out to her family and friends and everyone people affected by this tragedy.

Veronica was beautiful and loved.

emily searle said...

Anonymous said...

I am so glad that there has been at least a little coverage of Veronica's death and that her friends have had a place where they could express themselves. To find herself at the point where jumping in front of a train seemed to be the best alternative, or any alternative at all. . . she must have felt so alone, unable to connect with others and the world around her on a fundamental level. I think sometimes we don't see the signs of such severe depression because we don't want to. Just knowing that this kind of abyss can open up inside of someone who is so gifted is frightening. And we sometimes don't see the signs because it doesn't make sense to us. How could a talented and vivacious young woman like Veronica was feel this way?

I would be willing to bet that she was also striving with all her might to hide her feelings from her friends. For some reason, she could not share her pain with those who loved her. But I would also be willing to bet that her friends didn't realize how depressed Veronica was because she truly felt better and happier when she was with them. It is sad that she could not reach out to her friends; they obviously loved her very much.

It always makes me sad when the news concerning a suicide victim is hushed up or sanitized. It's like the person is as alone in death as she was in life when the pain that drove her to do this horrible thing to herself remains unacknowledged. I am so glad that Veronica's friends are talking about her here.

Anonymous said...

I too was a friend of Veronica's, though hadn't seen her in a year or so. Thank you so much for this blog post. I have been struggling with understanding how? why? and have been searching so hard for any actual news or reports... really hoping that this was all just a big mistake... the wrong Veronica Boehm, we hoped. She was just absolutely perfectly beautiful, glowing, sweet. This all seems so wrong.
I'm sorry that you had to be on that train, I'm sorry for all of you who had to experience this. That poor train conductor.
Again, thank you for this post.

Anonymous said...

Veronica and I shared mutual friends, I cannot say I knew her, but we frequented some of the same bars and dj nights around the city.

As has been stated here, she was a beautiful girl. She wore a gentle expression that was both at once endearing and striking. What is more important is how endearing. from what I saw, her interactions seemed to be with her friends.

I guess this is what has me so troubled and heartbroken; that someone so caring and cared for was enduring so much pain. My heart goes out to her family, her friends and those who bore witness on that sunday. Please know that as you grieve you have the love and support of us around you. For Veronica and others like her, we bear a responsibility to remind one another that we all have someone we can turn to.

Much love to all, but I'm heartbroken it is coming under these circumstance.

Anonymous said...

another dear friend of Veronica.
This has been a helpful discovery - this website. The community of people who loved her is so vast - and the pain that we have been suffering is something I could never have imagined. She slipped through our fingers. She is gone. It is the most shocking fact , and sometimes I don't even believe it. Where is my friend? She had been missing all day. We discovered the news of her death around 9. More details keep coming out, and its so hard to hear them - but also essential. One commenter mentioned lookng down. What you saw is haunting me. Beloved and Beautiful, gentle Veronica was brutally killed. Its too much pain. Its too unreal. I miss my friend. I want to save her - but its too late.

Anonymous said...

Veronica was the type of woman that you were afraid to approach because she radiated an incandescent beauty from the inside out, like a precious piece of art or a giant rare jewel. she twinkled. what mystifies me most is how eyes that shone with such brilliance could be blanketing such inner turmoil. i believe she to be an angel and like all angels she came into our lives to help us, to teach us about compassion and love. to remind us that our lives are not permanent that each day we must open our hearts to let love in and give love just as freely. we must forget the pettiness of our personal drama and see the bigger picture. reach out. her beauty is wrapped all around us still and it will live forever. thank you so much for creating this forum. my sincere and absolute condolences to each and every person affected. may love light your way.

Karen Boehm said...

On behalf of Veronica's family and closest friends I would like to thank all of the kind people who have shared their thoughts and best wishes in the aftermath of Veronica's tragic and untimely death.

As has been oft repeated on this site by those who knew her, Veronica's exquisite outer beauty was surpassed only by her inner beauty and she was dearly loved by all who knew her. We, her family, were also unaware of Veronica's despair or its causes. She was an extremely private person, even in the company of those she loved. All our lives are forever changed and diminished by this terrible event.

Thank you again for your compassion and your prayers for this lovely young woman who meant so much to all of us.

Veronica's Aunt Karen

Carol said...

Oh how terrible. I knew that being on the train tracks would mean that a train could suddenly run you over. But I never realized that the tracks could carry so much electricity that it could electrocute a person. My deepest condolences to the family of the victim. I hope they would be able to figure out what really happened and may justice be served appropriately.

Anonymous said...

I miss you Vern.

Andi said...

Life is too precious. My heart goes out to the family of the victim. May his soul rest in peace. I'd suggest for the family to look into www.deathletters.org. The grieving process is a long and painful one but knowing someone is going through the same thing gets it a little less difficult.

Anonymous said...

I shared many classes with Veronica over 4 years in college and it is extremely hard to process her death. She was indeed a very private person, she was incredibly beautiful, and her photography was inspirational to no end. My love and prayers go out to her family whom I have never met but feel connected to through the many photos she shared.

Anonymous said...

Miss you babe. Think about you all the time.

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Anonymous said...

Veronica Boehm was a very good friend of mine.
She was one of the sweetest people I'd ever met and eyes were the loveliest pair I'd ever seen.
I worked with her for a few years, and I never once heard a mean word cross her lips. She laughed at all my jokes and guffawed when I yanked her ponytail.
She was special.
I miss her every day.