We were in the very last car. I grabbed my purse and my video camera. I told my husband to get hold of our son and his backpack. I didn’t wait. I dashed forward toward the stairs. On the way out I had the foresight to grab our overnight bag that was stashed in a bin near the door.
As soon as I climbed out they told us to run as far away from the train as possible. We could see that the train had run into a big truck in the grade crossing. The truck was on fire. Gray smoke was billowing into the sky. The front cars of the train were consumed with it. They told us the truck was carrying acid, and they thought it was going to explode. I somehow remembered to take a video of the event as well as photos.
It didn’t explode. They loaded us into a school bus and took us to the South Crawley Grade School where the locals were supposed to show up with bologna and cheese sandwiches. But nobody was showing up fast. People had to go to the bathroom. The facilities were locked.
I led a group across the street to knock on the doors of the residents. We used the bathrooms of the people who lived near the Elementary School. I was surprised I had any presence of mind at all. Before that day I thought I’d be the type to dissolve in tears or breakdown under stress. But instead for some reason my emotions receded to a distance and my brain took over.
My bag turned out to be handy. Other passengers needed to borrow aspirin and bandages from my toiletry kit.
We were bused into New Orleans and didn’t arrive at the La Mothe House where we were staying until after midnight.
If you wonder where I’m coming from, I’m a suspense novelist. I’m looking for sinkings, sabotage, terrorist acts, etc. That’s why I dwell on them, not for any other reason. Actually you would be amazed. I have actually gone on a Mediterranean cruise. Did you read that? I’VE ACTUALLY SAILED.
The crew had trouble launching the lifeboats because the ship was listing so much. This is the same as the Lusitania disaster 100 years ago in 1915. This is why I asked what training Cunard crew members had in dealing with lifeboats during the Transatlantic virtual cruise last week. It’s still a relevant point. Some passengers complained that they had received no instruction in lifeboats before the sinking. You would think that cruise lines had learned nothing in the past 100 years!