On July 17, 2014, I was working as a train operator for the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority. I had just driven to Queens and was taking a break when my phone started blowing up. Calls, messages, they just kept coming. I was underground and totally unaware of the happenings in the bustling city above. I could tell from the sheer volume of messages that something was wrong, but I was working and couldn’t get the whole story. Something about my son, Eric. I called my husband, Ben, and said, “I just heard that something happened to Eric. I’m not sure what’s going on. Can you meet me at Stillwell Station? I’m on my way there now.”
I climbed back into the train and headed that way, my mind racing. I wasn’t allowed to check my phone while I was driving, and the suspense was making me a nervous wreck. I still hadn’t figured out exactly what had happened to my son. Then I realized that I was rocking back and forth, trying to will the train to go faster. I could feel the anxiety building up inside me. When I arrived at the station, I was alarmed to see Ben standing in the office waiting for me. “What are you doing up here? You can’t be in here. I’ll get in trouble. I told you to meet me downstairs.” I was furious that he was breaking the rules at my job.
“Gwen, It’s ok. They let me in. You won’t be in trouble. I told them that you needed to get home.”
I was still confused, and I had a strange feeling in my stomach. When we got downstairs, I started questioning him nonstop. “What’s going on? Did you hear anything? What happened to Eric?”
He said, “We’re headed to the hospital to see him. He should be there now.”
“Hospital? What do you mean he should be there? I don’t understand! We need to call somebody to find out exactly what happened!”
“Make sure to put your seatbelt on,” he said.
“I have my seatbelt on. I—” Just then his phone rang. I couldn’t hear what the person on the other end was saying, but I could tell by the look on his face that it was bad. “Was that about Eric?”
“Yeah, he’s there, so we going to the hospital to see him now.”
I tried to calm myself down. “Ok, but what did they say?” He was silent. “Is anything wrong with my son? Tell me! Tell me!”
He looked at me and I saw tears streaming down his face, something I’d never seen before. I was truly getting scared.
“Gwen, Eric is dead.”
I don’t remember much after that. He told me later I was flailing my arms and legs, trying to kick the door open and bust out the window. I was a mother in pain. He had to turn on the automatic locks to keep me safe. He had tried to reason with me. “Gwen, we will be there soon! Please leave the door alone!”
I’m not sure what was going through my mind, but I do recall thinking that if I could just get out of the car, I could run faster. I could get to my son. I could help him. My boy needed me. My mind was spinning. This couldn’t be happening again. It couldn’t be real. I couldn’t have lost another child. There had to be some explanation.
On the way to the hospital, Ben tried to get assistance from a police officer. He was of no help, but at the time I didn’t understand his reluctance. When we got to the hospital, they told Ben that I couldn’t go in since I was obviously in no condition to see my son. We went home so that we could try to find out what had happened. I remember sitting in the living room just feeling numb, not sure what was going on. Nothing was making sense to me. Everything around me seemed to be moving really fast and in slow-motion all at once. It was like my senses couldn’t comprehend what was happening around me.