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anne mikolay 2012 120On Thursday, September 29th, New Jersey Transit train no. 1614 on the Pascack Valley Line crashed into Hoboken terminal, killing one commuter and injuring approximately 108, including the engineer at the controls. Bystanders rushed to assist. First responders were on the scene within minutes. Media descended upon the terminal.

A few observations on human reaction and media coverage: New Jersey/New York commuters were actively compassionate; media was informative if not repetitive.

New Jerseyans and New Yorkers are closely related. We live together, work together. The New York/New Jersey mindset is often difficult for visitors to accept. The city is fast paced; we are always on the move. We walk fast, talk fast, weave in and out of traffic until we get where we’re going. We are undeterred, focused; nothing slows us down. Generally, we’re not cheery, smiling people. In fact, if somebody gets on the train grinning, wishing folks a good morning or a nice day, the synonym “weird” promptly comes to mind, and we hardly look up from our cell phones. But toss us into a crisis, and we come together. The world witnessed our solidarity on 9/11, and yesterday, once again, New Jersey/New York proved that humanitarianism is at the core of who we are. Passengers on New Jersey Transit train no. 1614 united to assist the injured and help each other escape the train. Compassionate bystanders in the Hoboken terminal risked their own safety and rushed toward the crash site rather than in the other direction. Local merchants supplied coffee, food, shelter for first responders. In a moment of dire need, nobody was rejected due to race, religion, or political affiliation, proving once again that New Jerseyans and New Yorkers are generous, decent human beings.

And the media proved once more that they can report on a crisis in a timely, informative manner...over and over and over again. In this age of 24 hour news reporting, commentators and reporters are forced to fill the excessive air time with repetitive details and observations. As a viewer, once I learn who, what, when, where, how, I can retain the information and do not need to hear it again and again. And I will never understand why reporters at news briefings ask questions the government representative specifically addressed in their statement. Perhaps the reporter is seeking clarification or a direct quote from the representative, but asking the NTSB official or Governors Christie and Cuomo the same questions over and over is pointless. Admittedly, I’ve written only human interest pieces for newspapers and have never done straight news reporting, but to me redundancy reduces reporting to nothing more than background noise.

The events of September 29th are tragic to be sure, but if a silver lining is to be found, it’s the compassion and resilience of New Jerseyans and New Yorkers, who once more proved when the going gets tough, they come together.