Two days ago, a mysterious man — who pulled the emergency lever on a Metro train at L’Enfant Plaza so that he could get off the train — suddenly found Washingtonians heaping scorn on him.
Along with an hourlong technical problem and a huge crowd headed to the Nationals game, the man’s action in stopping a train contributed to a horrible evening rush hour for Metro riders.
Washingtonians didn’t hold back their ire.
But what if the man who pulled the lever had a pretty decent reason for doing it?
Jackie Queen says he did. She was standing right next to him when he pulled the emergency lever and watched the whole thing unfold.
In footage of the incident filmed on a WMATA security camera, the man darts off of the train with a little girl in tow, after the train made an emergency stop.
But Queen says that before he boarded the train, he had two children with him — and the younger child, a boy who looked about five years old, didn’t make it onto the train.
The train doors closed behind the man and the little girl, leaving the little boy alone on the platform, screaming and banging on the door. The man started banging too, from the inside.
“I saw the father was hysterical,” Queen said. “Everyone was running to the emergency stop to stop the train…. There was probably seven or eight people pulling the emergency stop. Everybody was trying to get him off.”
Queen, who is visiting the District from Alabama with her family, said she did not speak a word to the frantic man, but she saw the child on the platform by himself. “The fear in his face, in the little boy’s face, your heart just really went out to him.”
Metro couldn’t confirm Queen’s account.
Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said police came to the station to investigate, as they do any time someone pulls the emergency switch. They did not interview anyone on board the train, Stessel said, so there were no witness reports that might corroborate or disprove Queen’s account.
Stessel said police did interview the man who got off the train. Whatever they learned from him, we don’t know; they didn’t press charges against him, and released him without even writing a police report.
The video footage clearly shows the man and girl running off the train, but it doesn’t show the entire platform.
Even if the man were trying to return to a small child, Stessel said, that still wouldn’t be the right time to pull the emergency handle. “Even if that were the case, parents and kids get separated on our system every day,” he said. “If that story is true and he did get separated, then it would just be a teachable moment for parents everywhere. Again, it’s an everyday occurrence on Metro. Go to the next station. See the station manager, and we will absolutely get you reunited.”
Queen agreed that there was a lesson to be learned.
“We have an eight-year-old. We sat down and we told her: We never thought about this, but this is what she would do if we ever got separated,” Queen said. “It was a good learning experience.”
Perhaps it was a learning experience for us all. The next time one of our fellow Metro passengers seems like a public transit villain, maybe we won’t be so quick to judge.
I mean, the guy with his feet on the seat probably had a really horrible day.