Route Number 76

Yesterday was a really awful day for the City of Ottawa. At 8:48 am a Via Rail train collided with a double decker bus, on the Number 76 route, about 2 km from my house. As of right now, six people are dead including the bus driver. Over 30 other people were injured. Every first responder in Ottawa was on the scene.

It's a route on the main thoroughfare from an Ottawa suburb, to the downtown core. The bus I usually take is an identical double decker that drives the exact same route over the exact set of tracks. I've even had that bus driver in the past and I recall his face because he was so friendly and happy. Which is obviously why it hit so close to home. I can't help but wonder how many of the other people are faces I've seen while making the trip to work in the past.

I had no idea it had happened until friends started texting and calling me knowing I'm on that route. I was in class so I couldn't answer my phone. When I checked twitter and saw the news I started doing what I imagine everyone in Ottawa was doing: frantically texting and calling people while alternating with a refresh of the browser on my computer to see if they had  released any names. When you live in a city as small as Ottawa, there's two degrees of separation.


Yesterday I was nowhere near the accident - I was never going to be anywhere near the accident the moment I decided to go back to school this Fall. On Mondays and Tuesdays I work downtown and take a bus, but on Wednesdays I have class at the University, so Mike drives me in on his way to work. Case in point, I'm currently not a Wednesday commuter so there was as much of a chance that I could have been on that bus as any other person in the city.

But still I couldn't stop reeling after I heard about it.

My heart just breaks for the people who, when they woke up in morning, had no clue. And their families. It's a bit gut wrenching to think of people in your own city, so close to home in so much pain.

And you can't help but feel lucky. And relating it to yourself. I think it's human nature.

I'm usually one of the first ones on the bus, at the beginning of my route. I like it this way because I like routine and when I'm first on the bus, it means I have my pick of seating. I always make a point to sit in the same spot because when the bus hits the parkway as it drives downtown, the top-left of the bus gives you the best view of the Ottawa River. If you've got to be a commuter, you can't ask for better scenery of the Gatineau Hills and the pretty shore line dotted with trees.

A lot of times when you're a commuter you close your eyes and put your head against the window. Or you spend time leafing through Facebook or Twitter. Or you you read a book.

I took that picture above last week on my way into work. It was a rainy morning but I liked how my polka dot umbrella could hang just so on the handlebar in front of me. Top left corner, double decker, umbrella in hand, I felt kinda British.

I'm trying my best not to think about what the tracks looked like out of the window from that seat yesterday. It's too paralyzing to think like that for long. As it is, I'm not quite sure how soon I'll be getting back on a bus, and when I do, I'm pretty certain I'll choose a different seat. I've said it before and I'll say it again, life is a blessing, not a chance. 

I've been complaining and whining and allowing myself to suffer existential crises for the past year. Most of them centre around decisions which in the back of my head make me feel like I'm in control of the future. Should I do option a? Or option b? "But if this, then that." I feel a bit silly.

You can ask for answers and for guidance, but we're not in control. We couldn't control when we arrived and we certainly don't control when we can leave. What we can control is how we conduct ourselves and listen while we are here. But concerning the big stuff? I'm far from convinced that we have any say in the matter.

It's too much to understand or reason with yourself "why" things seem so random. And any attempt to do so will get in the way of the moments you have now.

I think what''s important is, we smile at our neighbours and remember on a daily basis, how we're all in this together.

Route 76, we've all been thinking about you.