RailHope 17 deaths on my conscience
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17 deaths on my conscience
On 2 February 1990, my life was turned upside down, raising questions about “why” and “what for”. Everything had started so well. I was 24 at the time, lived in Frankfurt am Main and had been working as a train driver, mostly on rapid transit S-Bahn services, for two years. I liked my job and had a lot of friends in my church until … everything changed on 2 February 1990.
I was driving the S-Bahn from Wiesbaden to Frankfurt. Everything was as usual, the weather was fine. The train stopped at Rüsselsheim station, the doors opened, people got off or on, I looked at the signal - everything was OK, “Please stand clear of the doors”, a look at the platform, the doors closed, all vehicle displays were OK, I pushed the master controller forward, checking if all the doors were safely closed and if I was not driving too fast or too jerkily, then I looked at the signal again – “Shit!” How could the signal be at danger?! A moment of shock, before applying the emergency brake, adding sand to increase adhesion – another S-Bahn was running right towards us on the opposite track, a last wave to the driver with whom I had a nodding acquaintance – then everything turned black.
Is it me who has caused all this chaos?
I woke up, not knowing where I was. Pain, an IV drip hooked to my arm, beeps from an ECG, confusion: Why was I waking up here? Hadn’t I been driving the S-Bahn just a few moments ago? Was it me who had caused all this chaos? Was it true what the nurse had just told me, that two S-Bahn trains had crashed, killing 17 people? Wouldn’t that mean that I was responsible, that I had caused these deaths, that I was guilty? Had I killed 17 people? Had I failed to pay attention? But the signal was clear when I started – or was it? “God, help me! … Can you help me at all? Are you there at all?” Or were all the ideas I had about this Jesus Christ nothing but a mental construct, an illusion – had I been fooling myself? Were those people right who said that there was no God, that everything was just a coincidence?
My cry for this God grew louder, my questions grew deeper, my helplessness increased. But if there was no God, then my life did not make any sense, then my whole life was nothing but a lie! Why me? Why couldn’t I die together with the 17 others? How could my life go on? Would anybody ever want to have anything to do with me again, now that I had destroyed so many lives?
Everybody was sure to dump me, my employer, my family, my friends, and my church – now that I was no longer Helmut the sunshine boy, but someone with 17 deaths on his conscience!
Who is responsible?
On the other hand: Could it really be a coincidence that I was still alive? Who was responsible for that? How was I to understand that I received so much support from all those around me, who was responsible for my not having nightmares of the accident, for even the German tabloid “Bild” describing me as an “exemplary Christian”? All these questions kept spinning around in my head. There was one voice saying “Yes, there is a God; He has helped you so far and he wants to keep on helping you”. And there was another voice saying “Stop fooling yourself.”
A new perspective
One of those who helped me out of this tangle of questions was a fatherly friend who pointed out to me that the Bible says: “In everything give thanks”. It does not say “For everything give thanks”, but “in everything”. For me, this means that it was the God in whom I believed before the accident who also helped me during and after the accident. By learning to say “thank you” I gained a completely new perspective on the entire situation. I learned to rearrange my life, to start to understand God’s plan with me, namely that I am to talk about my faith and to pass it on to other people. I no longer regard God as somebody who automatically gives me something good after each prayer, but as somebody whose plans we do not always understand, but whom I trust to always be with me and support me even in my darkest hours. Helmut Hosch is married with two children and lives in Dortelweil near Frankfurt.
After the accident, Deutsche Bahn AG upgraded the existing "Indusi” inductive train control system by introducing the "PZB 90" intermittent automatic train control system. This system automatically generates a distance-based speed monitoring function in the on-board Indusi device. Among other things, this prevents trains from ignoring a signal at danger.