The Angel on the Train
A couple of days ago a local tragedy occurred, and it gave me great pause.
In the early hours of Monday, December 18th a passenger train was traveling south from Seattle when it derailed onto I-5, the largest interstate freeway in the state, near DuPont, Washington. At least three people died in the crash, and dozens of others were taken to local hospitals.
In the moments directly after the crash two witnesses rushed onboard the train and began administering first aid and moving the trapped passengers to safety. For at least 20 minutes they were the only first responders on the scene.
I saw a video clip of our local television news station doing a phone interview with this good samaritan first responder, Dan Konzelman (Watch the video clip here). At about 6 minutes into the interview, the news reporter asks Mr. Konzelman why he ran into the train. His response? Because I was there and I could (Sidenote: I am adopting this as my new motto for life.).
But there’s more. The interview continues and Mr. Konzelman described the work that he did onboard the train while they waited for help to arrive, and it is nothing short of heroic. The things he was able to do were not things that someone could do on their own. The peace that he had during this time of crisis was unnatural. And there was lots of prayer.
Then something really interesting happens in the interview, the thing that made me stop and go, “Wow!”. After hearing the unexplainable strength and fortitude showed by this young man in this moment of great need, the reporter–on live televised news–concludes the reason behind his super-human strength and super-calm state of mind:
“I mean, a guardian angel, honestly. What else can you say?” (minute 8:30 in the clip)
And I know it’s true. I know that there was a guardian angel helping Mr. Konzelman that morning in DuPont. I know, because I have met that angel myself.
The Angel in the Car Crash
I went to college in a small town located in the very northwest corner of Washington state. I was studying to be a teacher, and during the fall of my junior year I found out about a unique teaching opportunity for after graduation.
There was a missionary organization that was looking for teachers to travel to mission sites around the world and teach the children of missionaries. It sounded amazing and I wanted to learn more about it–the only problem was that the closest informational meeting would be happening in DuPont, about a 3-hour drive from my university. And I didn’t have a car.
Luckily I had just met this kind, outgoing, silly, smoking-hot guy who had a car (that guy is my husband now, so we all know that turned out well). When I told Jon about this info meeting and how I really wanted to go but had no way of getting there he offered to give me a ride. And, not being one to turn down free rides from people I barely know, I accepted.
Before we left school that afternoon I remember sitting in his car and he asked me something that nobody had ever asked me before: Would I like to pray with him for protection over our journey? Sure, sounds like a fine idea.
So, as we sat in Jon’s car parked in the garage under his apartment, we prayed for angels to protect the front and back of our car and that they would keep us safe.
And then we left.
We drove for a couple of hours, and as we got closer to our final destination in DuPont the weather turned for the worse. It was already dark outside and a storm had been picking up all afternoon. It was raining hard now and, with the darkness, it was hard to see the road well.
When we were just a few miles from our exit off I-5 chaos broke out around us. About four cars ahead of us we saw the crash begin. We could hear loud screeches and the tell-tale crunching sounds of metal-on-metal. We could see taillights ahead of us stopped and skewed off of the roadway. A car accident was happening in real time, and this was a big one.
Jon slammed on his brakes, but nothing happened. Literally nothing. For some unexplained reason, when he slammed on the brakes everything stopped. The car engine turned off. The lights went out. The radio stopped. The power steering failed. We were just in this little black hole-of-a-car in the middle of a car accident and we were completely powerless.
When it was all over we looked up and were shocked to discover that we were totally and completely fine. We could see 4 or 5 cars piled together in front of us. Jon’s front bumper was inches from the rear bumper of the car ahead of us but, despite his brakes going out, we hadn’t run into the pile-up. There were a couple of cars crashed to our right, and several behind us. But us? Nothing. We were in this bubble of absolutely nothing. In a dead car. In the middle of a storm. In the middle of I-5.
And we knew. We knew that the angels we had prayed for at the beginning of our journey were there. We knew that they had protected us and that the reason we were able to turn the key in the ignition, start the car back up, and make it to my meeting in time was because our prayer had been answered. Totally and completely answered.
Fifteen years later, Jon and I still reminisce about the “angel car crash” story. We joke that our guardian angels have skid marks because of us, but the reality is that on that fateful night our lives were changed forever. On that little stretch of I-5 near DuPont an angel intervened for us.
I think that the same thing happened this week when a train crashed in that exact same spot on I-5. I think that an angel was present when lives were spared in what could have been an even greater tragedy. I think that a prayer was answered when those two witnesses ran onto the train and did what nobody else would do. I think that God intervened when he gave those two witnesses the strength and wisdom to care for people in their hour of greatest need.
Although this train crash is in and of itself a tragedy, I find great hope in this story. Hope because God intervenes in our tragedies. Hope because He can use even the most ordinary person to accomplish great things in His name. Hope because there are good people in the world who are willing to sacrifice in order to help others. Hope because prayer works.
Hope because the angel who saved me all those years ago is still busy at work–skid marks and all!