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Like a lot of public-transportation-taking Washingtonians, Rusty McAndrew was running late this morning. He’d gotten on Metro at his neighborhood station in Columbia Heights, then transferred at Gallery Place for the Red Line. He called the salon where he works, VSL Hair Design in Dupont Circle, to let them know he was on his way. He had a client at 10 a.m. Luckily she was a regular, and understanding. She agreed to reschedule.
There were so many people on the platform at Gallery Place that McAndrew didn’t even go straight down. One train came; too crowded. Another train came; too crowded again. Finally, he got on the third. He boarded the first car.
“This was my ill-fated train,” he said.
The train had just pulled out of the station when, suddenly, there were “two big jolts” and, out the window, “bright flashes” of blue and yellow. Sparks! “There was some short screaming and oh my gods, oh my gods,” he said. “There were other WMATA personnel, maybe three, four maybe. They were like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa.’ As soon as the train came to a stop, within a second or two, [the operator] got on and said, ‘Customers, the train has derailed.'”
Said McAndrew: “It was like, yeah, obviously.”
“For the five seconds that it was happening, it was scary,” he said. “But we weren’t moving that fast.”
It was “a good 45 minutes to an hour,” he said, before passengers were evacuated to the other cars. The plan was to detach the first and second ones—the ones directly affected by the derailment—and then pull the train back to the station. The Metro employees on board used their radios to request permission to go “wayside,” or leave the train to investigate. “They kept radioing and contracting central,” he said. Eventually they got permission. “That just seemed to take a long time.”
Finally, the 345 passengers made it back to the platform at Farragut North. Emergency personnel were everywhere. There were stretchers, and oxygen, for anyone who might need them (only three minor injuries were reported). Metro transit police wanted to interview witnesses. McAndrew said he really, really had to go to the bathroom.
“I didn’t give a statement yet because I had to use the bathroom so bad,” he said. “I got above ground and I ran to a CVS near there, and they let me use the bathroom there.”
Then he went to the salon. “I wanted to get to work.”
McAndrew’s 10 a.m. appointment is coming back in at 3.
He’ll take Metro home tonight. “I’m at the mercy of Metro,” he said.
Photo by Will Atwood Mitchell