Planes, Trains and Tragedy

[ 1 ] May 20, 2011 |

Having pecked through all of our “to see” list in Bruges, we decided to head out a bit earlier than normal and caught the 11:50am train to Charlesroi Airport just south of Brussels (or so we were told).  We were about 30 minutes or so into our first train leg to Brussels sharing headphones listening to an episode from NPR that I downloaded earlier in the day when we hear the whistle from our train start, more whistle, then hard breaking until we were in full stop.  Chatting with some of the passengers around us we quickly learned that this was not normal.  In fact, it had never happened to any of the locals we spoke with.  Did we hit a cow or something?  Is there a mechanical problem?  A problem with someone on the train?  After sitting idly for 10 or 15 minutes wondering what in the world is going on, a woman plain dressed in street clothes with a small badge in her lapel pocket identifying her as a train company employee opened the door to our cabin and made her way inside.  She quickly explained first in Dutch, then in Flemish, then in French, and finally in English that someone had jumped in front of the train and committed suicide and that we be notified as further information is released.

It’s hard to say what our reaction or the reaction of the rest of the passengers was.  Dazzed, for sure.  Sad, most certainly.  We instinctually started to wonder who this person was.  What was his story?  What made him choose this day and this train?  Was it a confluence of events that prompted him to take his own life?  Was it a singular event or tragedy that sent him raging toward the tracks that afternoon?  Did he have a family, or children?  Is it selfish for me to even ask these questions or desire answers to them?  Regardless of the infinite amount of questions that came into our minds, we knew not a single answer would come.

All train traffic between Bruges and Brussels was halted.  Two hours passed, police came, paramedics came, and police representative from the morgue came and went.  With the remains completely removed, another train motored up along side our train.  One by one, the passengers from each car of our train where transferred to the new train.  Once all were boarded as settled in, we departed toward Brussels.

Arriving in Brussels, the passengers needing to catch planes or other connecting departures scurried off first followed by the rest of us.  It was not approaching 4:30pm and with most trains either delayed or canceled combined with normal end of business day commuters trying to get back home – Brussels station was a madhouse.  Delays are such a rare occurrence that everyone, including the locals, seemed to be at a loss for what to do.  With standing room only, we thankfully squeezed on board our connecting train to Charleseroi – all four of us, Alison, myself, and our two small child sized backpacks.

Thankfully we were told that ride to “Brussels South” airport is only around 15 minutes.  Liars.  After 45 minutes standing in the entryway of the train swaying back and forth around every curve, we finally arrived at Charlesroi Station.  We quickly realized and were promptly informed that this was not the airport and we had to take another bus to the airport.  An hour later we arrived at Charlesroi Airport and made a b-line to the snack counter not having eaten since breakfast.  About the time we called the shuttle service of the hotel we were staying at a taxi pulled up for a RyanAir pilot on his way to our same hotel. He asked us if we’d like to share his cab.  Jumping at the chance to be done with day we gladly threw our packs in the “boot” i.e. the trunk of the car, checked into our hotel, and kissed our pillows with a bit of somber thankfulness on our breath.


Category: Belgium, Blog, Destinations, Pat's Blog

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  1. Russ Porter says:

    Hey Pat and Alison, Wow! What a story about your train ride and the suicide that occurred. That’s crazy! I’m glad the two of your are finding ways to stay warm and are enjoying the trip. Thanks for keeping us posted on your travels.

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