Surviving Car 1


Jason Laughlin | The Philadelphia Inquirer | May 2016

Daniel Armyn opened his eyes and saw a train wheel spinning above him.

Smoke from an electrical fire stung his nostrils. Nearby someone cried.

“Every minute of the day I can see this,” he says a year later. “I can paint this photograph.”

Blair Berman awoke in woods lit by a half-moon. Strangers lay on her legs, screaming for help. She tried to pull herself upright by a tree and collapsed.

A year later, her New York City life has been replaced with physical therapy back home in Gwynedd Valley and slow recovery.

Days passed before Geralyn Ritter regained consciousness. Her first memory is hearing a voice, then seeing her husband, brother, and mother. She was in the hospital, with a tube in her throat that kept her from speaking. She tried to mouth, “But I’m going to be OK, right?”

A year later, she still doesn’t know the answer.

The evening of May 12, 2015, Armyn, Berman, and Ritter boarded Amtrak Train 188 to New York City. Eleven minutes after departing 30th Street Station, there was shaking, a sickening tilt, then darkness. They were all in the first car, the business car, when the train derailed rounding the Frankford Curve.

Writer bio: Jason Laughlin covers transportation for the Philadelphia Inquirer. He wrote for the Courier-Post for eight years, and served as a spokesman for the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office for seven years, before joining the Inky in 2014. He earned his undergraduate degree from The College of William and Mary, and graduate degrees from Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania.

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