Notice how the present and past tenses, simple, progressive, and perfect aspects, and modal auxiliaries combine to create meaning in the following excerpt from today's Washington Post.
Dark blue: present simple
Light blue: present progressive
Purple: present perfect
Dark green: past simple
Light green: Past progressive
Brown: modal auxiliary
'You Just Turn Your Head and Wait'
With Suicides, Train Engineers Long Haunted by Horror, Helplessness
By Steve Hendrix
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 2, 2009
Bruce Evans has learned to look away. Hoping to keep his mind free of yet another image that will linger for a lifetime, he has learned to avert his eyes as his train barrels down on a person on the tracks. In 20 years at the controls of Amtrak locomotives, Evans has watched a dozen fatalities unfold in agonizing close-up.
"After the first time you strike somebody, you just turn your head and wait for the impact," said Evans, an engineer based out of Washington's Union Station.
The first one was sitting on a quiet stretch of rail near Weldon, N.C., a man ignoring Evans's frantic horn blasts, waiting for a locomotive roaring at 75 mph to end his despair. "When I looked in the mirror, he was tumbling in the air, just flying," Evans said. "I can see it as clearly as if it was happening in front of me right now."
Colorfast mental snapshots of horror, a sense of overwhelming helplessness, sympathy and sometimes anger -- these are the aftershocks that engineers and subway train operators report from their special perch as unwilling agents of sudden death. Eight people have jumped in front of Metro trains in 2009, the most in recent years, and inches from each of those horrific scenes, barely mentioned in the news, sits a traumatized driver who will be forever entangled with a stranger's demise. It is an intimacy none of them sought.
"It's such a mixture of both anger and compassion, I don't know where one ends and the other starts," said Evans, who estimates that about half of his fatal strikes were suicides. "They're doing this to you, too. It's a hard thing to take home."
According to a British study, 16 percent of train operators involved in fatal incidents develop post-traumatic stress. For some, getting right back behind the controls is the best way to shake off the shadows of violence. For others, years of counseling are needed before they can return to everything they love about driving a train.
Some never do.
"Everyone reacts differently," Evans, 61, said. He told of a colleague who struck a mother and her four children on the tracks near Providence, R.I., a murder-suicide. "He never worked again."