Last week my editor sent me an email saying that there was going to be a chemical drill at Penn Station. I arrived about half an hour early and was lucky enough to meet their official photographer who waved me under the security tape, past the officials and down onto the Amtrak platform right before the drill was about to happen.
The scene down there was frightening, clouds of smoke, bloody “mock victims” moaning and screaming “help me!”, splayed across the platform and in between the rows of the train. As the marines walked by they would reach out for them, yelling things like “please don’t leave me!”, “I need to go, my son needs me!” and “I was just getting on the train!”. I couldn’t help but think of my dad who takes Amtrak back and forth from Boston all the time on business. The marines walked through the scene in their heavy suits talking to each victim, rating them in order of priority, stabilizing them and evacuating them on stretchers to the decontamination tent that had been set up outside the station. There they would hose them down, move them to the medical tent and run back down to evacuate more.
The whole thing was like something out of a horror movie. New Yorkers sometimes complain about how security and surveillance we live under. You can hardly go into any office building here without going through security, showing an ID, getting a pass, going through a metal detector, having your bag searched. There are cameras everywhere in the city. There’s police on every corner, in every subway, in every train station. But this was a reminder of the very real threat we live under, and it’s good to see that we’re prepared for this worst case scenario.