I'm pretty shaken today.
I was on the way home from my sister's barbecue yesterday, and I was sitting on the platform at Three Bridges station. A young woman came onto the platform, and used the telephone just along from the bench where I was sitting.
I noticed that she was crying bitterly during her conversation, which went on for about five minutes. Of course, this isn't the first time I've seen someone crying in public, but she seemed unusually distressed. I thought about approaching her, seeing if she was OK. But I didn't.
Looking back, I'm not entirely sure why. Partly I was concerned that she'd think I was some dirty old man trying to take advantage of her distress - as I said, she was young, and pretty. Mostly, though, if I'm honest with myself, I think that it was just basic English reticence, and a sense that it was none of my business.
She moved off down the platform. When the train came in, she stood as if waiting for it, but didn't board - she walked away from the edge to the centre of the platform, not exactly crying now, but gasping air. I got on the train, and it set off towards London.
The train stopped at Gatwick, and the power went out. Shortly afterwards, it was announced that this was due to a passenger fatality at Three Bridges. My blood ran cold.
I'm almost certain that it was the girl that I'd seen.
Since then, the "what if" scenarios have been whirring around my head ceaselessly. Had I spoken to her, would it have made any difference? Probably not. But I could have bloody tried. What would it have cost me? I feel like a coward.
I will never, never walk away from someone in obvious distress ever again. You shouldn't, either - it is your business. We are all responsible for one another.
Update 22nd May, 10:15 a.m.: The girl didn't die. Wow - I feel a lot better now. Thanks to my brother-in-law for pointing this out...Posted to Apropos of nothing by Simon Brunning at May 19, 2003 10:20 AM