I want to share the story of scene I witnessed, but first I want share with you what I was thinking about when I saw it happen.

Last week, a mysterious hero saved a man’s life after he fell onto the subway tracks in New York. The man fell off the platform onto the tracks and the hero jumped down, picked him up, and put him back on the platform before an oncoming tram came. The hero board the next train, and seemed to slip into anonymity. Eventually the man came forward, Chad Lindsey of Manhattan, magazine proof reader and aspiring actor.

Of course that story brought to mind the story of Wesley Autrey, also of Manhattan. Two years ago, Mr. Autrey jumped onto the tracks and saved a young man who was having a seizure fit by holding him down in a shallow trough between the tracks. Mr. Autrey received international attention for his bravery, including a spot on David Letterman (see below) and New York’s Bronze Medallion. The New York Times editorialized that Mr. Autrey proved that Big City values were no worse than Small Town values. (I’ll add my own accolade: Mr Autrey has the world’s greatest accent, bar none.)

Both of these stories had me thinking of the time I witnessed a young mother at Jiyugaoka station here in Tokyo slip on the stairs decending to the platform and lose grip of her young child who briefly went flying through the air. An man of at least seventy years old lept into the air and caught the baby landed safely on his feet and carried the child to the screaming mother. A more extraordinary sight I had never seen.

The next day after reading about Mr. Lindsey and thinking back to Mr. Autrey and the elderly hero, once again saw an act of extreme heroism. An elderly woman with a very large backpack stepped onto the yellow stripe on the edge of the platform and was pulled to safety by a teenaged boy only just in time to avoid being hit by the oncoming train.

Have you witnessed an act of bravery or heroism on transit? Done one yourself? Been treated to one by a stranger? Share your stories below.

17 Replies to “Transit Heroes”

  1. Here’s my brave/heroic story.

    I was on a express bus from the U District to downtown sitting a couple of rows behind the bending part on the day the bus tunnel originally opened back in 1990. There were a couple of Mexican guys sitting in the seats in the middle section talking to each other. While he was talking one of the Mexican guys was looking at a black guy sitting directly in front of me. The black guy, thinking the other guy was talking to him asked him to repeat himself. The black guy wasn’t being rude, he thought the Mexican guy was talking to him didn’t catch what he was saying. From my seat directly behind him I also though the Mexican guy was talking to him. The Mexican guy took offense at the intrusion into his conversation and the next thing I know he and the black guy are fighting and they quickly fall down into the stairwell. The whole altrecation was over in 10 or 15 seconds. At that point I noticed there was blood all over the place and the Mexican guy had a knife in his hand. This is when I got up and headed to the back of the bus.

    Here’s where the brave/heroic part comes in. I get to the back of the bus and say “that guy just stabbed the other guy” to the other passengers who were trying to figure out what was going on. The two guys were still in a heap at the bottom of the stairwell, the hand with the knife is the only thing above the top step. After I said what happened a young black guy who was probably in his late teens calmly stands up and without saying a word walks towards the guys in the stairwell and steps onto the Mexican guy’s wrist. He stayed standing on top of the hand until the bus arrived at Convention Place where the police were waiting. The Mexican guy who had been struggling to get up stopped moving as soon as his hand was stepped on.

    All this happened on Eastlake so the young guy ended up holding down the other guy’s arm for about five minutes. The whole time the young guy never said a word and never displayed any type of emotion.

    I hopped off of the bus as soon as it stopped and didn’t stick around to see the resolution of the situation, but according to a brief article in the next morning’s newspaper the victim was stabbed in his arm and was going to be fine. The heroic guy wasn’t mentioned.

      1. I understand where you’re coming from and considered writing my story without the emphasis on the participant’s race. I’ve read enough articles in the Times or PI to know that any time crime and transit are mentioned there are going to be a bunch of idiots leaving comments on how the article validates their racial prejudices, even if race isn’t mentioned in article.

        I also realized that my story sounded an awful lot like the Times or PI commenter’s fantasy of how their first transit trip would end up if they ever worked up the courage to step on a bus.

        I ended up including race for two reasons. The first was because it made it much easier to describe who was doing what in the story. The second reason was becuase at the time of the incident I got the impression that the young man who came to the aid of the stabbing victim did it to help a fellow black man. I don’t have any way of knowing if this was the case, for all I know he would have done it for anybody, but if it was the case the participant’s race seemed pertinent to the story.

        No matter what his motivation was it was the bravest thing I’ve ever seen anybody do, and that fact that he did it so non-chalantly still amazes me 20 years later.

        On an unrelated note try doing a search on the Seattle Times site regarding Metro in September of 1990. Because this was around the time of the opening of the bus tunnel there were a lot of articles dealing with Metro’s plans for the future. In one article they discussed possibly building a busway in a trench along I-5 to Northgate. In another they prediced that light rail would be built to Northgate by 2000.

  2. I see the sort of every-day heroism on the bus time to time. Someone helping an old lady get on board, or helping a mother with children get her groceries together.

    The only thing close to action-heroism I witnessed was an old man get had a stroke or heart attack or something on the bus, and one of the riders was a nurse and was able to get him conscious again. It was pretty terrifying.

  3. As a retired trolly driver, it’s amazing how many stories you hear in the ‘bull pen’ (drivers waiting area at the base before your shift starts) from other drivers about passenger and driver actions that border on heroic — few if any ever get acknoledged for their human deeds of kindness.
    My own is driving the 3 up Taylor to upper Queen Anne. At a stop on the hill, I noticed an unattended stroller start to roll down the sidewalk towards my bus, with a toddler in it. Instinct takes over, and I was able to jump out and catch it before it went past the bus. The mother, gardening at the time, was appreciation enough to make my carreer worthwile.
    My story is small compared to most stories you hear about violence or tragedy being avoided.

  4. Not a big heroic thing, but meaningful in my own way:

    During the December Snowpocalypse, several riders cleared snow drifts at my bus stops so me & my trusty wheelchair could safely board. Thank-you, whoever you are :)

  5. How about a nod to the men and women who bust their butts every day against a poltiical establishment in Olympia deeply suspicious of, and resentful toward, development of mass transit within the Puget Sound region. It’s little-noticed, rarely rewarded work, but worth noting that day in and day out, a lot of people strap it on to push this region into the 21st century of smart growth, greener footprints, and real mobility for citizens.

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