Doorman

I enjoyed reading this little essay about New York City doormen.

–Not just because I would have been perfectly happy to live out my earthly life as a doorman, if God willed.

–Not just because the essay’s line of argument recalls King Lear’s ‘reason not the need’ speech, my favorite speech of all time.

But also because my humble little lot as parish priest at 11th and K Streets, N.E., is not too far removed from the social niche the doormen of New York occupy. I am proud to be their confrere.

Empire Boulevard, Brooklyn

metro-train-crash-washington-dc

It has been a month since the Monday evening that rattled me as much as I have been rattled in a long time. I think September 11, 2001, was the last time I sat in front of a televison in a state of such distress.

The Washington Metro opened when I was a little boy. My dad worked for the city then, and we rode on a special Metro ride for V.I.P.’s, the day before the system opened.

He was so excited about the Metro that he used to ride it one stop each evening, from his office at Farragut North to the end of the red line at Dupont Circle. Then he would catch the bus the rest of the way to our house (near Friendship Heights–only a shaded ‘future’ station on the map back then).

empireThe Metro ride did not save him any time or trouble. He did it out of sheer excitement.

I guess children who grow up on farms have a special love for pigs and tractors. They do not like to see sick pigs or mangled tractors. For me, it is the Metro.

There was a deadly Metro crash in January, 1982–the same afternoon Air Florida Flight 90 crashed into the 14th-Street bridge and plummeted into the Potomac River. And a Metro operator was killed in a crash in 1996.

But I think the crash on June 22 is the event that will mark a turning point in Washington subway history equivalent to the turning point that was reached in New York City ten days before the end of World War I:

Have you ever been to Frederick Law Olmstead’s magnificent Prospect Park in Brooklyn? One of the exits of the park opens onto Empire Boulevard.

Malbone wreckThis street once had a different name. They had to change the name of the street, because the old name had become synonymous with death and horror. Empire Boulevard was once Malbone Street.

Click here for the New York Times account of the deadliest non-terrorist subway catastrophe in history, which happened in the tunnel outside the Malbone Street station on All Saints Day, 1918.

At least 93 people died. The crash occurred because a non-union scab with two hours of training was operating the Brighton Beach express during a strike. He took a six-mile-an-hour curve at 40 mph.

The responsible authorities were indicted for manslaughter.

The NYC subway bounced back. It became a professional operation. May the same happen here in Washington. And may all the dead rest in peace.