Thursday, April 14, 2011

[rant #2]

Wow, I have so much to say today... and it's not pretty or poetic or insightful, it's just raw and real and EXACTLY what I am feeling. The kids are in bed and Frank is on the treadmill, so I am sitting here alone with my thoughts, and I need to get them OUT of my head.

Frank went to work yesterday afternoon just like he does every other day. It was a work train he got called in for, so we figured he would work between 5 - 8 hours and be done for the day, which is the pattern we have come to expect for work trains! He left at 3:00 yesterday afternoon and we all went about our day. I got the kids fed and showered and put to bed and I glanced at the clock and it was around 9:00... and I hadn't heard from Frank. I sat around for a while, posted an entry in my blog, took a shower myself, and then checked the clock again. It was midnight, and I still hadn't heard from Frank. Naturally, I didn't worry because he typically works 12 hour days and I thought that maybe this work train would be no different (even though they had been in the past!) I went ahead and climbed into bed and went to sleep.

I hear the key turn in the lock and the front door open around 4:00am. I always get up and talk to Frank while he grabs something to eat and gets ready for bed. I could see on his face last night / this morning that something had happened. Frank went on to tell me that the train he was assigned to had derailed while they were bringing it into the yard at El Reno. I should explain that when they are at the yard and bringing the train into the yard, the Conductor is not ON the train, he is standing NEXT to the train... giving orders on the walkie-talkie and keeping an eye on things. In the event of a derail the train doesn't always tip over, but it can, and those unlucky enough to be standing too close would be crushed.

This is the 2nd derailment Frank has experienced since he started working for Union Pacific. In the event of a derail all employees are breathalized and drug tested, as per company policy. An investigation is launched to determine the CAUSE of the derail. Luckilly, the blame for neither derailment Frank has experienced landed on Frank. This particular one was due to the cars of the train being loaded unevenly and the weight not being distributed correctly, and when the train hit the curve in the yard it skipped track. The train was stacked *put together* before Frank was assigned Conductor.

Both Frank and I know that his working for the railroad has provided us with MANY benefits, but there is also a high level of risk in working around tons of moving machinery. One wrong move and you are dead. Literally. There have been cases of men in the yard getting pinned between two rolling trains... or men being crushed when a train derails. There have been stories of men getting their arms or legs torn off just by being too close to the tracks. There have been instances where trains have collided even. Needless to say, there is risk.

I do not worry every time that Frank walks out the door that it might be the last time I see him. I do not worry that every time he is not home when I expect him home that he might have been hurt. I do not worry because I would drive myself CRAZY if I did. I would never sleep and I would be a wreck. Not to mention, more often than not, men have long careers with the railroad and end them will all limbs intact!

Before Frank got the job with Union Pacific he was going to join the Army. He was actually scheduled to swear in the day AFTER he got the call from the Railroad telling him he had gotten the job. Had that call come in literally 24 hours later than it did, our life would be completely different. When he was going to join the Army I knew that I would spend every day worrying about his safety... worrying if he was alright... worrying if I'd ever speak to him again.

I keep reminding myself that the situation I am in right now as a railroad wife pales in comparison to what many military wives are facing day in and day out... but there is still the very real fear that something COULD happen, because after all, this isn't an office job, and things go wrong.

So, I have been abruptly reminded of our mortality and how fragile life is, and my belief that you should always leave those you love with loving words because you never know whether or not that will be the last thing you say to them has been strengthened.


  1. Amy, you are becomming very wise. We love you and are very proud of the great wife and mom you have become.