Three or four times a day at my home in Hanover Township, I hear a train whistle.
I have no idea where the train comes from or where it goes, but I hear it.
Every time I hear it, I pause and smile. Because it reminds me of a friend gone too soon.
Back in 2012, a 20-year-old me was working at Boscov’s in Wilkes-Barre when Christina Givens joined our team for the Christmas season. We considered ourselves a tight-knit group, especially the younger of us. Another co-worker, Ashley Morrow, and I quickly became friends with Christina.
Christina had energy — a quiet, kind soul. She was 18 at the time, but was one of the “good ones.” She had excellent people skills and was a hard worker.
Christina, who was dating a co-worker’s grandson, came to us from Reno, Nevada.
There were times, especially when it was a quiet night in the our departments, we would be done with work and, with no customers around, we’d steal a few moments and gather together to discuss the music or television show of the day. It helped us make it through late evenings.
Christina liked to travel. She and Keith, her boyfriend, traveled throughout the United States however they could, be it hitchhiking on rail cars or riding buses for days on end. They would stop in a town and work just long enough to get to their next destination.
Sometimes I envied the life they had. She would tell stories about their time in different cities and their passion for being carefree. They loved what they did and they loved life.
After the holiday season, Christina, in early 2013, told me about her plans to go south for the summer. I remember being sad about her leaving, especially after how close we had become in a relatively short time.
On Christina’s last day at work, I hugged her and told her to “be careful” because I knew how potentially dangerous living a carefree lifestyle could be. She, being Christina, laughed it off and said she would.
Needless to say, I was floored when Ashley called me in mid-March 2013 to tell me Christina had died. I remember exactly what I was doing at the time — I was going into Universal Studios, Florida, with my mom, dad and sister. Time stopped for a few seconds as Ashley explained what happened.
It turns out Christina, Keith and their friend, Dylon Elston, sought shelter in an open-top gondola style rail car at a CSX rail yard in Mobile, Alabama. No one knew they were in the car and a CSX worker coupled the car, which carried over 20 steel I-beams, to another car readying it for travel.
The impact from the car coupling shifted the beams, crushing Christina, Keith and Dylon.
More than 20 beams had to be lifted by crane from the car to get to the crushed bodies of the trio who were instantly killed in the accident. Another man, from Mobile, went to the hospital with minor leg injuries and a fifth man, in a separate car because he had a dog, was uninjured.
I brought up this column to Ashley and asked her if she had any memories of Christina. They were almost identical to what I’ve written here. Ashley reminded me Christina color coded Ashley’s guitar lessons, taking time to break them down and make them more digestible.
I often wonder what Christina would be doing now. Would she still be seeing the world? Would she and Keith be married with several dogs? Where would they settle down?
To some it’s just a train whistle; to me, it’s a memory.