Traveling on the Side of Angels
Last December, Amtrak played a central role in providing peace to our family during a time of grief.
My father-in-law’s health was failing and my wife was traveling frequently between our home in Albany, NY and Syracuse, where her Father lived. My wife always insisted on driving to Syracuse so she could be adaptable to the fluid state of her father’s condition. This started to become a concern of mine toward the end of November, the start of the ice, snow, and freezing rain season.
When her father’s condition worsened in early December, we started to get very worried about what the outcome of this illness might be. Then, in mid-December the dreaded call came: “Annette, you need to come home right now, your Father only has hours left.”
My wife, being an extremely loving and devoted person to her parents and family of six, was in total shock. Since I was a frequent Amtrak traveler and had faith in its on-time reliability, I immediately knew the only answer for Annette’s travel this day was to take the train. After some coaxing, Annette finally agreed, and I began to make all the necessary arrangements.
The train that would get her to Syracuse in the required amount of time left in about 1 hour. She was not packed, the train station was over 30 minutes away on a good day, and we had not even ordered a taxi. I thought to myself, pulling this trip off in this amount of time would take nothing less than a miracle.
From this point forward, I swear the hands of angels intervened. The taxi that normally took 15-20 minutes to arrive was at our house in about 7 minutes. Annette managed to pack in under 10 minutes. The taxi drove a route that neither of us were familiar with, driving as fast as was reasonably safe–the trip took only 15 minutes instead of the usual 30 minutes.
At the station, the train arrived exactly on time and Annette was seated in a usually booked business class seat. During the trip, a woman seated nearby offered comfort words to my wife.
As if they sensed something was amiss with Annette, every Amtrak representative was exceptionally nice, friendly, and helpful–from the ticket agent, to the conductor, to the cafe attendant.
The train arrived in Syracuse early and Annette arrived at the hospital just in time at the to be with her father before he passed away. Annette has mentioned to me several times since then that the comfort derived from being there for this crucial moment has helped her through many tough, emotional moments.
Annette mentioned to me that it felt like someone was looking over her to make sure she was there when her father passed away. After speaking with an Amtrak train engineer about Annette’s particular train, he said “We were able to get up to max speed (80 mph) for the first time in a while, and, for some unexplained reason, all of the freight trains we usually yield the rails to were held up west of Syracuse that day.”
On that trip, we believe my wife rode on the wings of Amtrak angels.