Thursday, September 15, 2011

September disasters

Speaking of September disasters, 53 years ago ,on September 14th, a Jersey Central commuter train ,traveling  across the 8th Street R.R.station bridge between Elizabeth and  Bayonne NJ ,plunged into Newark Bay. The train was traveling from Bay Head stopping at numerous coastal towns en route to Jersey City and Manhattan. No one ever figured out why both the engineer and conductor ignored 3 signals warning of the open tressel bridge where oil tankers and other vessels would periodically pass below.It was rumored that the engineer had a heart attack and was dead.

The memory of that day is as clear as a bell. I was in third grade in Washington School but school was closed for the Jewish Holidays. I was sitting on the floor in the parlor playing when my mother ran in and turned on the news. She was a nurse , not yet working because she was a stay at home mom in those years, and was immediately drafted for disaster nursing and placed on standby.Bayonne Hospital immediately went into disaster mode , cancelled elective surgeries and set up the cafeteria as a patient care area. As it turned out,it wasn't needed.Of the four cars that plunged into the water, only two people,a man and a woman,made it out of the commuter car that sunk to the polluted bay floor. One car was dangling from the bridge with screaming people and one or two cars remained on the tracks.One of those passengers was my dentist's receptionist.Of coarse every one in town hopped in their cars to see this spectacle and my mom packed my brothers and I into our black Chevy..I'll never forget the helicopters,rescue boats below and that awful dangling car.I can still smell the polluted brown oil slicked bay water in my memory.It's one of those things that just sticks with you.

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