Life happens at times we least expect. Summer is a time for vacation for most people, and a time of work for others. I am traveling right now and am in Canada exploring Vancouver British Columbia and will be headed to Whistler for a medical conference where I’ll speak and co-host a fashion show with this incredible cause. I do this as often as I can and I feel blessed to have these experiences. This time, instead of flying, we took the train, because, well, when you take a train, you get to see everything. You see views an airplane just won’t measure up to. I enjoy the wonder that traveling offers: the breath-taking sites of North Dakota and Montana, Glacier National Park, and through Seattle, Washington. I got to see it all for the first time. 

My family and I took the train from Chicago all the way to Seattle, a three-day trip filled with meeting and bonding with people from all over the world. We got off in downtown Seattle and got on another train from Seattle northbound to Vancouver. It was supposed to be only three or so hours. I stared out the window the first half of it, munched on what I thought was pretty good train food, and marveled at the beautiful Pacific Ocean racing by me. Traveling by train, however, isn’t so nice when you’ve got chronic pain, but I found a spot on the train to stay faithful to my yoga routines. 

Then, at about 10:00 P.M., it was pitch black outside, and the train slowed as it crossed the Canadian border. I was dozing in and out, but glanced at the television screen a few times to see where we were. We had about fifty minutes until we’d arrive in Vancouver. I got up, feeling tired and drained and went into another car to lie down on cushioned chairs. I kicked my feet up and prepared to sleep. A few minutes later, the train lurched and came to a complete breaking stop. I opened my eyes and sat up in an erect position, and a knot formed in my stomach. I looked at the woman sitting at the next table beside me. We didn’t exchange dialogue at first. An announcement sounded on the speakers, informing us that there was a situation on the tracks that needed to be taken care of and not to worry.

The woman and I didn’t think anything of it. The second announcement echoed through the cars, asking if there was a medic or a doctor on the train and to make their way to the front. The woman and I glanced at each other again, and the knot in my stomach tightened. Someone grabbed a medical device and left in a rush, sprinting through ten or so cars. The woman looked at me again, and we both knew what had happened. The conductor himself breezed past us, made a third announcement, stating that he didn’t want to sugarcoat anything. Someone had gotten hit by the train, a young teen boy, and the situation was bad. 

For six or so hours, all 80 passengers on board the train became aware that we all had something in common, things we often forget or overlook. We were reminded again that we’re not immortal, accidents happen, and time here on earth is brief. Another announcement came over us and we were informed that the boy didn’t make it.

I bonded with great women on the train who suddenly felt like long-time friends. But it was heart breaking. It’s taken me a few days here to process what had happened. My heart aches for the boy who was hit, his family and friends, and also for the conductor and everybody who was there. Everybody did what was in their power to help the situation. Needless to say, we can’t know when a tragedy will occur and it’s difficult when things like this happen while traveling. I am OK about it now, as I didn’t know the boy, but as an empathetic person, I couldn’t help but feel the heaviness of a lost life and the hurting family and friends who knew the boy. The best way to cope with these kinds of tragedies is to be kind to yourself, help those you are traveling with, let yourself feel the sadness and try to move forward with your vacation. Affirmations can also help move you through. Meditation is another tool I used to get myself to a better place about it, though I meditate each day. Talk and connect with people when things happen. Try not to let things affect you too much but keep your thoughts positive for those who were affected by the tragedy. Be mindful and safe on your travels this summer.