I Fell Down The Subway Steps In NYC With My Daughter And No One Cared
One of my worst fears as a New Yorker has always been falling down the subway steps. That fear tripled after I had a baby and was forced to lug my stroller around the city. And recently, just a few weeks after Malaysia Goodson died after she fell down the steps while carrying her baby in a stroller, I, too, took a spill with my daughter while in the train station.
When I fell, I was lucky to have already been close to the bottom of the subway steps, but I was still highly disturbed that 99 percent of the people around me did nothing. Actually, the only person who tried to help me was an older woman who watched the entire thing unfold. But hold that thought because we need to start at the beginning of how trash New York City’s infrastructure is when it comes to people who are physically disabled and have to carry things around –like babies, and strollers.
It took me at least nine months after giving birth before I actually started taking the subway with my daughter. The train stations are already a nightmare when you’re solo so imagine having to bring a baby with you. I can’t always take a cab everywhere, though, because it gets expensive, especially for car seat service with a toddler. And since getting a car is not in my household budget at the moment (having a full-time car in NYC can be more of a headache than anything anyway), sometimes taking the subway is a must. New York train stations vary in depth, but most were built deeply underground. While some train stations have escalators, they typically only cover one out of two or three floor levels, and it’s a toss up as to how many will actually be working on any given day. I nearly had an asthma attack in one station while carrying my daughter in her stroller upstairs in a two-story station that had a broken escalator.
Elevators are also a trip. Not only will you find tons of people who probably don’t even need the elevators doing the most to get on in front of you, the floors are often dirty and covered with mysterious liquids (probably pee). In fairness, elevators have gotten better in terms of function, but there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done. The MTA has reported that 114 of its 427 stations, which is 24 percent, are accessible. That doesn’t account for malfunctions though, which can sometimes last for days if no one reports them.
Now, back to my fall. I had picked up my two-year-old daughter from daycare and went about our usual route home. Out of the public transportation options available, it was either take the train or a bus. The latter was absolutely out of the question with a stroller, though I’ve seen people do it and still don’t know how because a stroller on a narrow bus packed with tons of apathetic people refusing to move in order to make space is not the move. So, subway it was. On this particular day, I was in the middle of a torturous asthma flare-up. As usual, I descended the steps at the President street station with my daughter in her stroller to head home. President Street is one of those stations with one escalator that only goes up one of the two levels in the station. We made it through most of the final set of steps, and by the time I was near the bottom, at the third to last step down, I began making a motion to put my stroller back on the ground. In that moment I didn’t realize that the stroller had gotten caught on my coat pocket. Feeling the stroller stuck startled me and caused me to lose my balance. Plus, I was also gasping for air because my asthma was exacerbated by the heavy lifting. Hence, I tripped and fell forward. I have quick reflexes so I held onto the stroller the entire time and, thankfully, was able to plant one of my feet at the bottom of the stairs, but I ended up falling on top of my daughter’s stroller in a controlled manner. The stroller landed on its side and I was able to hold my weight up so that my entire body didn’t land on my daughter. She was securely strapped in so she didn’t fall out of the stroller and, to be honest, she was surprisingly calm about the entire process.
Remember the one person out of at least 20 people who I said actually tried to help us? I saw her stretch out her arms as as if she were going to try to catch us (which wouldn’t have been ideal) and she shouted, “Oh, my goodness!” in the most comforting Trinidadian accent. She was probably in her 60s, and maybe a grandmother herself, but she definitely wouldn’t have been able to break my fall had it been worse., despite her quick reflexes. The woman rushed over to us, helped me pick up the stroller, checked on my daughter and I and then went on her way once she felt comfortable enough knowing that we were okay.
Not one other soul uttered a word, I just got stares or averted glances. I don’t feel like I’m owed anything, but basic human decency from more than just one person would have been nice. It would also be nice if someone didn’t have to die to bring awareness to what should be a glaring issue in such a massive city, where getting from point A to point B is already one of many things in this crumbling metropolis that’s like the Hunger Games. I carry my daughter’s stroller up and down the steps all the time and see other moms doing the same. It’s something that must be done so we do it, but a helping hand would be nice because who knows when or if NYC’s infrastructure, in a city that has millions of commuters, will ever be what it should be to match the demand.