Editorial: A reflection on a tragic day in Fox River Grove

  • Fox River Grove Deputy Fire Chief Jim Kreher cleans up around a memorial dedicated to students who died after a train hit their school bus on Oct. 25, 1995.

      Fox River Grove Deputy Fire Chief Jim Kreher cleans up around a memorial dedicated to students who died after a train hit their school bus on Oct. 25, 1995. Rick West | Staff Photographer

  • A stone with a plaque marks the Oct. 25, 1995 Fox River Grove scene where a commuter train struck a school bus, killing seven students.

      A stone with a plaque marks the Oct. 25, 1995 Fox River Grove scene where a commuter train struck a school bus, killing seven students. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted10/24/2015 2:00 PM

Though the intersection at Algonquin Road and Northwest Highway in Fox River Grove has changed, it is impossible to drive past it without thinking, even if only briefly, of the tragedy that took place there.

It was 20 years ago that a school bus crossed the railroad tracks on Algonquin and stopped at the traffic light on Northwest Highway just on the other side.

 

The substitute driver apparently was unaware that there wasn't enough clearance between the tracks and the highway and that the back of the bus still hung in the path of an oncoming Metra train heading toward Chicago at 60 mph.

The crash spun the top of the bus twirling into the intersection. Five students were killed instantly. Two others died later. More than 20 others were injured.

It all happened in a horrific instant.

Twenty years ago. How amazingly fast time flies. It seems, for those of us who lived in these suburbs then, like the proverbial yesterday.

We -- the survivors and witnesses and rescuers, the family and friends and neighbors -- have taken on the weight of years, our hair a little grayer, our skin more wrinkled, our steps perhaps a bit slower.

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The passing of time ages all of us, the seasons also providing holiday celebrations and milestones, life experiences and achievements.

But for the young seven, the unfortunate seven, time stopped with that frozen day. As we drive past that intersection, they remain in our hearts but unaging.

Susanna Guzman is and always will be 18; Jeffrey J. Clark and Joseph A. Kalte, forever 16. Stephanie Fulham and Tiffany Schneider will always be 15. Michael B. Hoffman and Shawn P. Robinson, always 14.

For them, there were no graduations, no marriages, no careers. They are as they were when they boarded that bus that morning for school.

As that morning broke, much was wrong with rail crossing safety across America.

That tragedy, every parent's nightmare, provided a wake-up call, and if there is any solace to be taken from it, it is that the country responded seriously.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

That year, 505 people died in vehicles at railway crossings in the United States. Last year, the death toll was 168.

Progress isn't complete. But it has been made.

We celebrate that, of course. But Oct. 25 is not a day for celebration. It is a day for reflection.

It is a day to honor the memories of Jeffrey, Joseph, Michael, Shawn, Stephanie, Susanna and Tiffany.

Though the intersection at Algonquin Road and Northwest Highway in Fox River Grove has changed, it is impossible to drive past it without thinking.

When you do, think of them. Remember them.

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