“Do not attempt to board. Doors closing.”

I had just barely caught the Red Line train at Jackson.

“Attention passengers: do not attempt to board. Doors closing.”

A man came running down the stairs with just enough time to extend his arm and backpack into the closing train doors. They closed upon his right wrist… and did not bounce back open like they normally would.

I remember seeing hands – the hand that was stuck, clenching that red and yellow backpack. I remember his left hand straining to pull the doors back open. I remember the hands of three young men trying to assist him.

Photo by Heather Bonkowski

Then the train started to move, and the man started to run.

I remember the hands pulling more desperately and forcefully at the doors.

I remember the hands that reached up and pulled the big red emergency lever that did not work.

Faster, faster now.

“Drop the bag man! Drop the bag!”

Moments of increasing speed passed in slow motion.

Finally the sprinting man dropped the bag and his hand mercifully slipped back out the doors.

A few moments later, “This is Monroe. Doors open on the left at Monroe.”

The group of young men stood still with the bag at their feet. I got up, took it, and brought it out of the train.

The sprinting man was still running down the platform toward the train. I ran to meet him, my arm outstretched with his bag. He did not see me, his eyes transfixed on the train that was once again leaving the platform.

“Hey!” I yelled as he ran but an inch past me. I jutted his bag toward him. He turned his head to the right, saw the bag, paused, took it, and immediately made his way up the stairs out to the street.

I doubt he ever saw me at all. He was in shock.

How lucky he was that this happened between Jackson and Monroe, where the subway platforms connect uninterrupted. And how lucky he was that he didn’t fall under the train.

The next train came and I got on.

“Do not attempt to board, doors closing.”

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