We had only been walking a few minutes, perhaps 10, when we heard the warning sound from the tracks running parallel to the road. Then, with barely a sound, the northbound train sped by. I glanced toward the tracks as the first train cars passed from our view, and spotted a dog running free, heading straight into the speeding passenger train. No sound, just the sight.
As the last train car passed, a man approached from the opposite side, a leash dangling from his hand, his profile framed by the sweeping view of Puget Sound on a blue-sky morning. Stepping with care and taking his time, he reached the still body and leaned over it, his hands touching, working at some careful task I could not see. I was overcome by a need to help in some small way: does he need a phone, is the dog alive, does he need to know I witnessed the accident and share in his loss?
What I want to say is this: my emotions propelled me to put myself in danger, and though I was taking great care not to roll my ankle on the rocky shoulder of the tracks, I was on auto-pilot, moving fast to close the gap and connect with this man. It never occured to me that what I was doing was dangerous, despite the fact that just moments earlier a train sped by with very little auditory warning. "Ma'am, you need to get off the tracks!" a voice called, and when I replied to the railroad worker seated in his truck nearby, he admonished me further: "You saw what happened to the dog, didn't you?"
That cinched it for me- the clear and present danger- and so I stepped away and waited for the man to approach, his hands occupied with the orange collar and matching leash. He accepted my condolences and offer of a hug, but barely. "He got out of his tether; we had him for a year- got him from the pound. We gave him a chance." Mementos in hand, he walked away.
I am certain this event shall stay with me for a very long time; perhaps the rest of my life. And I trust that the lesson learned- to stay alert to my own safety and well-being despite the circumstances, will be the silver lining in this painful witness on a perfectly stunning spring day.