Picking up from my tweet earlier: I boarded at Metro Center. Our Blue Line train pulled into McPherson Square, the next stop, around 1:15 at the typical slow station speed. But the braking sound was strange, like the usual brakes mixed with a higher scream and a lower shout. A few of us looked up, but there weren’t any yells when the braking ended. The guy in the cap at the door laughed to himself, and I felt the same way, like we thought we’d heard something before realizing we hadn’t.
We were both wrong. The train held with the doors closed and after a minute went into power-down mode — lights off, engines shifting low. Women standing in the middle of the car began talking loudly about how the train had hit somebody, and they began to move around the car and look out the windows. Another minute or two passed, and two kids/young men near me opened the rear door to see if they could get out that way. They looked outside, stayed inside and shut the door.
The women began to get a little upset, yelling some about pulling the emergency door handles or pressing the operator call button to get out of the car. One who walked by muttered about Friday the 13th, and another banged on the window when a Metro worker passed. He gestured for them to give him a minute. Two workers had put on their yellow emergency vests and passed our car a few times. About five minutes after we’d pulled into the station, one of them entered our car from the front and sent us off the train in that direction. This was my first time evacuating a Metro train, and I was surprised to see how close the bumpers were, just a half step between cars. We all filed up a couple cars at a normal pace to the train’s half-open front door.
I waited on the platform briefly. The crowds from the train weren’t too heavy, and everyone moved smoothly, like they were heading back to their offices from lunch. The other side of the platform was relatively empty. I moved to the gates area overlooking the platforms until the crowd there was told to move along. One yellow vest stood on top of the lights between the track beds and appeared to be looking under the middle of our train. Another Metro worker was climbing down to our tracks, and the electrified third rail appeared to be shut off.
I exited on the Vermont Avenue side, tweeting, where staffers were at the time turning people away downstairs but not upstairs. People rode the escalator down and then rode it back up. A white Metro police SUV arrived quickly, and the officer headed downstairs with an incident kit. The full force of the emergency response came two blocks away at the Franklin Square exit (pictured above): a fire truck, several ambulances, cop cars, and sirened red sedans. A fold-out yellow plastic wall blocked entrance but not exit, and the red-jacketed downtown ambassadors directed people to other Metro stops. The man selling flowers across the sidewalk from the escalators stayed in place. A passerby asked a firefighter how long it’d be, and the firefighter said it’d be too long.
Camera men and a woman began arriving about 1:45, shooting the sidewalk, the emergency vehicles and the unused stretcher carried to the surface and put back in the ambulance. D.C. Fire spokesman Alan Etter let the cameras know about the victim’s death shortly before 2.
The walk to Arlington took about 40 minutes, and I wondered along the way who the dead person was underneath our subway train.