Brenda's letter to Reader's Digest:
".....and as we approached the downtown area I noticed a woman pushing a stroller with a baby inside and tugging the arm of a small child coming up to the tracks. She looked up at our train and then began to hurry across. The wheels of the stroller got caught in the flange way, and tipped over on it's front. The mother stumbled and fell over the stroller pulling the toddler to the ground in the middle of the track. As I applied the emergency brakes, I had visions of us running down this little family and could only watch in horror as she fumbled to right herself and the stroller, again trying to drag the little toddler while I waited helplessly for the outcome. I was blowing the whistle, ringing the bell, and screaming for her to get out of the way. But I knew it wasn't going to help as she needed precious time to get off the tracks. Then it was like a big hand just stopped us before we ran over them, and I don't think, I can ever go to work again."
The words came tumbling out of my husband Tom's mouth faster and faster and as I listened and watched his tired weary eyes they formed pools of tears. I was worried that he was on the verge of a breakdown. I had been invited for supper with the children to our friendís home where Tom had just joined us on his arrival from work. The appetites were gone, the mood was somber now and I was afraid for the future. I was angry with this woman who had threatened her family's existence, our immediate future and my husband's career. This was the trip following a crash at a crossing where Tom's train collided with 2 young women. One of the women was in critical care and would remain there for three months, the other (a pregnant mother) had died.
I waited in the moments that followed to see how Tom would go on. He was angry and frustrated and said," Something has to be done!" And something he did -
Following that incident Tom became involved in public speaking. He talks to schools, driver's education classes, community and service clubs, bus drivers, Rural Municipalities, the little lady on the bus on his deadhead work trips, the businessman next to him on the plane when he travels and anyone he can reach out to.
He began a program called "Crossing Safely". A few years later the Saskatchewan Legislative Board of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers recognized that as a volunteer our family was taking a large personal loss of Tom's income for a number of years in order to take the time to do radio commercials, talk shows, posters, handouts and do his public speaking and so they gave him a small budget to work with to spread the word. He had to ask for a fee to cover the expenses and continues to let people know how dangerous it is to not appreciate the fact that thousands of tons can't stop like a car can and that it's a little like running into your house head first at full speed. A public awareness program in Canada compares a train crash to that of a pop can being run over by your car. In his 25 year career the fatality mentioned was the only person who died but many have been seriously injured. His train has collided with cars, a truck, a road grader that was spun like a top on it's end and many of his fellow railroaders have had the horrors of more than one fatality to include pedestrians trapped crossing the yards between cars or running out in front or trapped on bridges.
It is interesting to note that many crashes occur because of ignorance and not always trying to "beat the train". Sadly many people assume that trains run on schedules, but train time is anytime nowadays and it's usually a case of the person not looking both ways or not understanding that sometimes there are two tracks. The other misconception is that they are not aware of how fast a train is approaching as it is deceiving and you can't really hear the whistle until it is passing if your in a vehicle. Most of the public is also unaware that it can take well over a mile to stop once the emergency brake is applied.
It is the hope that your magazine will pick up on this topic and help to spread the word. Your readers should know how they can save their lives and others. Please check out Tom's web page and perhaps give him a call for stats so you can be a part of helping others to cross safely...
Thank you for
May 9, 1998
Crossing Safely is now funded by NARF (North America Railway Foundation). The Foundation is a non-profit, private operating foundation, which was formed on October 22, 1996 with the financial support of organized rail labor. Its purpose is to explore, nurture and support railway safety, efficiency and technology and to educate about and preserve the history of railroads in the United States and Canada. The goals of the Foundation are achieved by providing direct and active financial support to deserving institutions and projects, which exemplify the Foundation's purpose.