I have a friend from my hometown of Mahopac, N.Y. named Ed. Great guy, have known him for decades. He recently had a terrifying incident on a train. Here’s the story in his words …
On December 2, 2016 I had the train ride from hell.
After spending a couple of days in New York City during the very busy holiday season, my girlfriend and I decided to head to Croton Falls, N.Y. via Metro North’s Harlem Line. We boarded the train, sat in a row of three seats and stretched out for the seemingly pleasant hour-long ride.
We reached the White Plains station, and as the doors closed to depart, I heard yelling and cursing coming from the other end of the train car. The man was obviously upset. He screamed, “Stop the train! Stop the fucking train!” He was agitated and walking closer to where we sat—his voice increasingly in volume.
“Stop the fucking train!”
“Stop the fucking train!”
Before reaching our seat, he turned around and began walking to the other end. I looked back and saw him running from one side of the train to the other, hurling his body into the door in an effort to break through. This lasted only 15 seconds, but it felt like forever. When nothing opened, he screamed, “None of you motherfuckers could stop the train for me! Fuck all you fuckers anyway! I’ll kill all you motherfuckers! I’m gonna kill every one of you motherfuckers! I’m certifiable out of the institution! I’ll do it!”
His voice grew louder and louder. My girlfriend was sitting on the aisle seat, and I shifted her to the inside. The man passed me, and I was able to size him up. He was about 5-foot-10, African-American, weathered army fatigues. His pants were quite baggy, which made me think it’d be possible for him to conceal a weapon. He continued to scream—”I’m gonna kill you motherfuckers! I’m gonna kill you!” A woman standing nearby was crying and shaking, her head glued to the floor. When the man wasn’t looking, I motioned toward her to sit in the empty seat across for me. She followed the request.
Now a bunch of people are crying. No one is making contact with the man. He’s yelling and ranting and screaming. Then, without warning, someone pulled the emergency break. We were stuck between White Plains and North White Plains. The train grew quiet.
Seconds later, his ranting continued. “I’m gonna fuck someone up! I’m gonna kill someone!” He passed me again, and I followed him with my gaze. I look at his legs, his arms, his head, his gait. I observed him from head to toe, in order to ascertain the best possible way to move on him in the event he made a move.
A conductor approached from the next car, and I figured he would enter and work to resolve the standoff. No. As he reached the door, he extended his hand to lock us all in the with madman. The conductor told the man to calm down, but from the safety of a metal door and glass window. “You come in this care,” the crazy man screamed, “I’ll fuck you up!” The conductor turned and retreated, and the madman began to run from one end of the car to the other, repeating his threats.
Now—as a licensed firearm owner—I usually carry my gun with me. New York City, however, does not recognize my state permit. My girlfriend was in tears. Others were in tears. As the madman passed yet again, a young kid—maybe 20, 21—said, “Did you pull the break?”
This did not go over well. “What the fuck did you just ask me, motherfucker?” the madman said. Spittle flew from his mouth.
The kid seemed nervous. “Did you stop the train?” he asked again.
“No, motherfucker!” the madman said. “I didn’t stop no fucking train! Sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up!”
He sat, but moments later flashed the lunatic the middle finger. Not a good idea. The madman’s voice became even louder, and he approached his adversary. Another youngster, probably 15 or 16, stood between the two, and the madman reached back and punched him in the face—twice.
I had enough. I leapt from my seat, grabbed the man in the middle of his third punch, hooked his arms in a Full Nelson, hooked his legs with mine and threw him down onto a now-vacated row of seats. “You done?” I yelled.
“You better get off of me, motherfucker!” he said. “When you let me go I’m gonna kill your ass!”
By now the section had cleared out, and me and the crazy man were going at it. I yelled out for someone to grab his legs—and not one person helped. There were, however, five or six people recording on their iPhones. “Listen,” I yelled, “if you don’t put your cameras away and stop filming me, you’re next when I let him go.” That worked.
A conducted finally approached and said, “Hang on man. The cops are coming.” I asked for him to grab the madman’s free arm. The conductor paused, and the madman said to me, “I ain’t got no weapon.”
“OK,” I said. “But I don’t know that. I’m not letting you go.”
The conductor was about to grab the lunatic’s arm when another conductor (the one who refused to enter earlier) urged him not to. “Don’t get involved,” he said.
“Sorry, man,” the conductor said. “He’s my boss.” He backed away, but assured me police were en route.
The rest was … dispiriting. The train was cleared, and passengers just left. Meanwhile, I was holding down this madman, waiting, waiting, waiting. At one point I raised my head and realized the only people in the car were me, the madman and the impotent conductor. Ultimately, the madman started to cry. He was bawling, insisting he simply wanted to return to the institution; that he never meant to cause any arm. He relaxed his muscles, but I refused to release my grip.
The conductor told me the other train was about to leave. Wait. Leave. Leave me here??? I had to get home. My girlfriend was on that train. So I leaned into the man’s ear. He was still crying. I whispered to him, “I need to go. I am going to let go of you and leave. But I am telling you this. If you twitch. If you make any move when I get up, I will kill you. I have a knife. I will slice you and put your fuckiing head through the window. Do you understand? I think you can tell how strong I am, and you don’t doubt I will.”
Through his sobs he said, “Yes. Go”.
I let go, stood up and walked onto the other train. I was greeted by claps and handshakes and hugs and myriad “Thank yous”. I was sweaty and exhausted, and my girlfriend—who is 26, and I’m 47—didn’t understand why.
I told her the story about an incident that took place in December of 1993, when a mentally disturbed man boarded an LIRR train in Queens. Several minutes into the ride, at Garden City, that man pulled out a gun and started shooting. He killed six people and wounded a couple dozen.
I didn’t know if the madman would kill.
But I wasn’t taking that risk.
PS: I later learned that the man on our train was irate for good reason. He had boarded with several garbage bags that contained his belongings. When the train stopped in White Plains he was in the bathroom. Realizing this was his stop, he rushed out of the bathroom and started throwing his bags onto the platform. But before he could exit the doors closed, and all his worldly possessions were left behind. I felt awful for him. But I wouldn’t change my actions.