Total darkness. Dwindling supplies of air. Temperatures said to feel over 100 degrees. The New York City subway has been a nightmare lately, but tonight, riders may have stared into the scorched depths of commuting hell itself.
A southbound F train encountered mechanical problems near the Broadway-Lafayette stop in Soho, and most of the time that sort of thing is merely a severe inconvenience, but tonight it looks like it turned into something worse. Here, witness the seething masses, desperate for oxygen and relief from sweltering temperatures, tear and claw at a subway door as they try to get out:
And while this visual is disturbing for all of us who have to actually risk the New York City subway each day, a personal account on Facebook from commuter Michael Sciaraffo makes it all too real:
I was taking a packed F train home, that had no working AC, when we abruptly stopped in a tunnel. The engines shut down, the lights go off and with no exaggeration, we were stuck there for 45 minutes in what felt like 120 degree heat.
First, we were told it was train traffic ahead of us (you know that lie all too well). As we waited with no further communication, people started getting very worried. Almost everyone began fanning themselves with paper, as it felt as if it was just getting warmer and warmer.
But the darkness and slowly rising temperatures were only the beginning. Subway Lucifer had just gotten started, and the nakedness was still yet to come:
Beads of sweat began rolling down people’s faces. We started to tell everyone to open the side windows and open the doors the three inches we could pry it open to, with books, to get the cross ventilation from the passing trains. Coats started getting removed, and then people were sweating so much from standing in this crowded oven, that people starting taking off shirts and some pants. One lady disrobed while others covered her with a jacket so no one could see. Some people started getting faint, and we started to identify any elderly people or pregnant women on the car who were standing or needed water, so they could sit and drink. Claustrophobia, panic and heat exhaustion began to set in for many folks. At this point, the windows started getting steamed up.
And 30 minutes after the ordeal began, the subway operator finally told the trapped passengers the truth. It was no mere “train traffic.” The train they were on was stuck, and they were stuck inside. The resourceful commuters began to take stock of the situation, and figure out an escape route:
At this point, we began to discuss making decisions about how we were going to evacuate, who would go first and who would need help. Suddenly, we felt the train jerk oddly forward and backward, which didn’t feel right. It turned out there another train behind us, started to push our train ahead into the next station, at about 1 mph.
Once they finally reached a station 45 minutes later (it may have actually been longer, as the first reports of a southbound F train with mechanical troubles on the official MTA Twitter page was at 5:48 pm, and Chelsea Lawrence, who took the video above, noted that the train arrived at 6:57 pm), Sciariffo says it took another ten minutes for the doors to finally open, while onlookers stood helpless, fearful of interfering with the train’s door lock mechanism.
Eventually, Sciariffo says they were released into the beautiful confines of a New York City Subway platform:
I never enjoyed the dank, smelly aroma of a train station more in my life.
It was a terrible experience to endure, no doubt. But I am very grateful that despite how terrible this experience was, it wasn’t something more serious, like a terror attack, and that ultimately, we will all be making it home to our families safely. God bless.
Say what you will about New Yorkers, but when stuff hits the fan, we know to mobilize and work together in a tragedy.
May God have mercy on their souls, and all of ours.
We’ve reached out to the MTA for more information on what happened, and will update if we hear back.