Monday, May 14, 2007

Bomb threat causes Amtrak to evacuate train

Last night, the California Zephyr -- the train which runs from San Francisco to Chicago via Denver, Burlington IA, and my neck of the woods, the train I have often had occasion to ride from Galesburg to the Big City (and one round trip from Denver to Galesburg) -- was stopped just after it left Denver on its way east. Some passengers expressed concerns over one man whose behavior was troubling, so the train held up in Arvada to be evacuated while the Arvada PD did a bomb search.

The individual who had caused the worries did not have an explosive, but he was carrying both a big-ass knife and a supply of crystal meth.

Wow. This isn't the first scare of the sort, either. When my folks were returning from their vacation last month, Mom related the story of their ride out of Flagstaff:

When we came back from having had supper in the dining car, we were pulling out of Trinidad [Colorado] and there was this guy sitting alone in our car, and he mumbled something at us. I didn't understand what he said, so I asked him to repeat himself. "All the way to the back. Go all the way to the back."

I quietly and firmly said, "No, these are our seats," and your dad and I sat back down in our regular seats. A couple of other passengers arrived back, as well, and then, a little bit later, one of the younger car attendants, who asked the man, "Is this your seat?" and, "Where's your seat? Where's your ticket?"

The man seemed quiet, calm, (it was really spooky) as he pronounced, "There's a bomb on this train." He told the attendant he had heard a couple of guys up in the observation car talking about blowing up the train, and they had a duffel bag with a bomb. They had already gotten off the train at the last stop, but they were going to blow up the train. When asked, he indicated he'd had a little to drink, but he didn't seem to be really drunk, just weird.

The attendant said, "Come on up to the observation car and show me what you saw."

The man refused. The attendant got more senior staff to help question the man, who continued to refuse to accompany them to the observation car. When the man was informed that he would either come with them to look for the bag or he would be removed from the train at the next stop, La Junta (his ticket was for the whole ride, all the way to Chicago). Without hesitation, the man said, "I'd love get off at La Junta."

Almost immediately, a crowd of passengers started arriving in the coach car, having been cleared out of the observation car. They were all aflutter, wondering what was going on, chattering and asking questions and such, but indicated that the conductor and attendants had simply said there was a little problem, and that they should take their regular seats.

I don't know how, but we arrived in La Junta forty-five minutes early. The city police were waiting at the station. After several minutes standing and talking with the police, the strange man shook hands with every member of the train staff still standing at the platform, shook hands with police officers, and was escorted to one of the police cars.

The cabin attendant came up to us and told us nothing was found, and asked your father and me if we were okay. We told him we were fine. Which we were.

The train waited at the station until its regular departure time, and then went on its way toward Denver, undisturbed by further incident.

I can't help but wonder why that one didn't get any news coverage... Friday, 20 April of this year... the week of VA Tech shootings.

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