Tragedy on the F Train

I saw a man kill himself on the F train last week.

I was coming from a real estate closing with two delightful clients who had purchased their first home.   The air was crisp, my buyers were happy, my business was doing well, … it was a good day.

I positioned myself on the subway platform to minimize the time spent at my eventual exit from the train as we New Yorkers often do.  Then that voice came in: “Look Up”.  As the train approached, I saw him flying sideways in front of the train, an athletic move, his faced turned towards me so he wouldn’t see the collision, a woolen hat on his head.  At that moment time slowed down.  I wanted to run and stop the train.  I knew what was happening.  I had to avert my eyes.   He neatly slid under the force of the train.

Large flocks of crows have been visiting my bird feeder upstate of late.  They scare off the goldfinches, and juncos, and nuthatches, and they even spook the large mourning doves.  Yesterday morning I heard their loud arrival and went to my window to watch.  Part of me wanted to shoo them away for disturbing ‘my’ songbirds and another part said no….just watch.  They were beautiful, chaotic, loud and a bit scary.  Then all hell broke loose.  They started to fly in all directions, some bumping into my windows, frantic.  A hawk flew into my vision, not unlike the flight of the poor soul in the subway,  capturing one of the crows mid-air.  It took the squeaking bird to my terrace floor and gradually killed it with it’s talons before flying off with it’s breakfast.

Both of my parents killed themselves.  It would be so easy for me to fall into story after witnessing that tragic event last week, to relive those events in our family’s lives and how it has affected us.  And I did, for a short while.  But ultimately, that serves no one.

That state of watching, of observing events is a gift, a choice, a practice.  I diminish the vitality of life when I create a tale around ‘my’ little songbirds being pushed away by the murder of crows.  Nor do I honor the man in the subway when I make it about my pain instead of his.

I do not know his name.  This is the only article I could find online.  I wonder what stories he was telling himself?  I wonder what stories my mother and father told?  And what stories am I still distracting myself with?

My heart goes out to his family and friends and to the subway conductor who had to see this and feel some very difficult feelings.  But mostly my heart goes out to the man with the woolen cap … may he find peace and healing.

16 Replies to “Tragedy on the F Train”

  1. This is so beautiful, poignant, moving and even poetic. You transcended so much in just these few paragraphs. Thank you for sharing. 💜

  2. The hurt is there in everyone but it is how each deals with it. Some let it consume them. Others learn from the hurt and move on to help others cross their deadly flooding of emotions. You are a light Patrick. Thanks.

  3. I am so sorry, Patrick. It’s definitely unusual for anyone to witness such a tragedy. I cannot imagine what you had to endure to have both of your parents die so tragically . You have quite a gift of writing. Keep it up. Have you written your story yet?

  4. Thoughts from a non judgemental and love filled perspective. I appreciate you sharing this, will say a prayer for everyone mentioned in your essay. With love.

  5. Patrick, you may never know why you were chosen to be in that very spot, at that very moment, but your reach has given this man’s story dignity and love.

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