[N&W] Re: Stories of N&W
nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Thu May 6 22:16:48 EDT 2004
Hi Jennifer, Here is a recent story of NS heroism. Norfolk Southern was
formed as a merger between the Southern RR and the N&W. Since it happened in
Layfayette, Ind, I think it might still count as an N&W story.
Jerry Kay, Portsmouth, Virginia
The baby, the conductor and the miracle
May 16, 1998
Tila Marshall looked up from her
flower garden when she heard the train whistle. Why, she
wondered, is it blowing so long today?
She looked around for Emily. Just moments ago, the
19-month-old had been right there, running her hands through
the soil. Tila ran into the house yelling to 9-year-old
Zachary: "Is your sister with you?''
"I thought she was with you.''
Tila's stomach clenched into a knot.
It was 1:45 p.m., last Tuesday, and conductor Robert Mohr
and engineer Rod Lindley were sweating in the cab of the
locomotive pulling Norfolk Southern's No. 146, 100-cars
long, through Lafayette.
It's a route they've covered hundreds of times, starting to
the west in Decatur, Ill., and winding up in Bellevue, Ohio,
about 10 miles south of Lake Erie.
They had slowed to 24 mph as they sliced through south
Lafayette, passing less than a block from the Tila's
In the distance, Mohr spotted something on the right-hand
side of the track. Lindley thought it might be a dog and
blew the horn to scare it off. It didn't move, so he blew
the horn again. And again.
Whatever was on the tracks raised its head. Mohr saw a
wide-eyed face, a tiny pony tail sticking straight up.
"That's a baby!'' Mohr hollered.
And then everything happened so fast. It all just happened
Lindley hit the brakes, knowing full well he could never
stop in time. Mohr bolted out the side door of the cab.
Clinging to the outside of the moving train, he sidestepped
along a ledge that runs the length of the locomotive.
Lindley kept blowing the whistle. Blowing and praying.
The emergency brakes slowed the train to about 10 mph as
Mohr scrambled down a set of steps at the front of the
locomotive and lowered himself to the snowguard at the very
tip of the train.
Responding to the whistle, Emily rolled off the rail and
onto the rock-covered edge of the tracks. Better, Mohr
thought, but still in the train's path.
As the horn blared and the brakes screamed, the distance
kept closing: 40 feet, 20 feet, 10 feet.
The conductor stretched his 5-foot-9 inch frame, extending
his right leg to kick the girl out of the train's path. He
knew there would be only one chance.
Now! He felt his foot strike the baby as the locomotive
swept by. Then he jumped from the moving train, uncertain
whether his plan had worked.
As he race toward the baby, he could see her face and
light-brown hair highlighted in blood. But she was moving
and he could hear her crying.
"She's alive!'' he thought.
Mohr scooped her up and cradled her in his arms, yelling for
a nearby neighbor to call an ambulance.
"Let's go find mommy,'' Mohr said. He said it over and over
Patrolman Randy Hale of the Lafayette Police Department
heard the call on the scanner: child hit by train. In
minutes, he was at the scene, just in time to see Mohr
walking along the tracks with a baby in his arms. There was
blood all over the conductor's shirt.
But the child was crying. "That,'' Hale remembers, "was the
best sound I've ever heard.''
When the paramedics arrived and tried to take Emily, she
clung to Mohr's heavy blue, bloodstained shirt.
"She didn't want me to let loose of her,'' he says.
From her backyard, Tila Marshall had heard the brakes scream
and the train roll to a stop. Then she heard the police
sirens. Now, police officers were crossing the street toward
Tears streamed down her face as she watched them come. And
then she screamed at them:
"Don't you come here and tell me that's my baby. Don't you
tell me that.''
Did your baby have a pony tail on top of her head? an
Tila's knees went weak. She almost passed out.
An officer grabbed her.
"Your baby's OK,'' he said. Some part of the train had just
clipped her, and the blood was from four superficial cuts on
Emily was already on her way to St. Elizabeth's Medical
Center, where her wounds would be closed with 20 stitches.
There, doctors and nurses asked her for her name.
Frightened, Emily just kept saying "Me. Me.''
Tila rushed to the hospital. Sobbing, she clung to Emily.
She kept telling her daughter how sorry she was.
When Mohr arrived home in rural Denver, Ind., Tuesday night,
his family was waiting on the front porch, cheering their
"I don't feel like any hero,'' Mohr says. "I don't like
that, I guess. I did what anybody would have done.''
Mohr has had some close calls before in his 23 years on the
rails. There have been a couple of collisions with vehicles,
but never anything fatal and certainly never a small child.
"As far as people on the tracks, there's no training,'' Mohr
says. "I just had to try something. It had to be just all
Cathy Mohr, the conductor's wife of nearly 25 years, calls
her husband a quiet, humble man. But when the time came to
step up, she's not surprised he did. She pauses to think
about her hero. To think about that split second miracle and
the two lives that can now continue on.
"Yeah,'' she says, "I could almost picture him doing this.''
Tila wants to share that picture, to meet her heroes, both
Mohr and Lindley.
"I can't wait to wrap my arms around both of these men,''
she says, "and tell them how grateful I am.''
By Thursday afternoon, Emily was playing in the sunshine,
proudly showing off her "boo boo'' to anyone who cared to
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