On my first day covering the Trump White House, my train hits a fuel tanker

By Anna Wilding on November 28, 2018

BY ANNA WILDING ON JANUARY 25, 2017

WASHINGTON, DC (Herald de Paris) —  My first day documenting the White House of the Trump Administration started with a jolt. I was literally standing on the train rushing towards DC when there was a jolt. I grabbed the nearest fixed object I could.

I thought it felt like we hit something- and then thought we must have pulled into the next station. I was right the first time. Within 30 seconds, a calm measured voice came over the loudspeaker.  “We have hit an obstacle. Things are okay. Please immediately make your way to the front carriage of the train with all your belongings.”

In my case it was to the back of the train and soon a few of us in the, “Quiet Car,” were being herded to the business class section of the train.

I had seen,out of the rear train windows, what I thought may be a yellow tractor or farm equipment partially flipped over, with its front tires off and thought that must have been rusting there for some time. What obstacle has we run into?

Then it hit me.

That was the obstacle.  The train with its speed and strength was further up the track by the time it stopped. We hit a fuel tanker, and the gasoline was leaking everywhere.  I realized immediately the kind of danger we were in if it caught fire. Thankfully, we learned in the minutes following, that the driver of the fuel tanker escaped and there were no injuries on the train. Provided there was no fire, we were fine. Amtrak staff kept us informed at all times over the next 2 hours as an ambulance, firetrucks, and investigators arrived at the scene.

I cannot explain what it is like to hit something on a train. The force of the impact, by the time it reached the back carriages was less than one would expect, considering the damage it did to the fuel tanker wresting off its two huge front tires, spillage of newspapers and gasoline, and the front cab of the bright yellow truck flipped over. The tanker was sprawled over one of the the tracks. I was so thankful the driver, and we, were all okay. Shocked, but okay.

One woman I interviewed said it was her first time on the train, and she was heading to New York. We waited patiently as investigators arrived. An Amtrak official struck up conversation with me – he was in charge of security during Inauguration and at again the Women’s March. He was proud of Amtrak on the weekend. Amtrak staff were great today too.

That was the start of the day.

I sent an email to the White House letting them know of the incident, and that I may be late. At the same time, at special request, I received the first official statement from Amtrak.  We were two miles north of Quantico, Virginia at 9.55am when the incident occurred. I had been tweeting it out. Firemen boarded the train to check there were no injuries, and in each car they told the 95 passengers that they would stay with us to and make sure that everyone was okay, “In the event some had medical conditions such as diabetes.”

The Prince William Fire Department was excellent. We were kept informed the entire time by Amtrak and the Fire Department and that was great.

Two hours later, were were on our way hurtling towards Washington DC. I wondered how the driver felt getting back on the horse, so to speak. A quick taxi to the White House under a brilliantly warm winter sunshine, and I was there. Where I was supposed to be.

I had not been in the White House Press Room since December, having traveled over the holidays, and missing the inauguration due to another trip, this past weekend.

Soon, I was at the gates, greeting the longtime Secret Service faces, who were professional as ever. New administrative staff were friendly and professional today. Then it was into the White House, somewhat in shock still, and on with the show. Or Spectacle.



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