KENSINGTON, Md. – One minute, 59-year-old Elnora Fortson was reading a poem on an Amtrak train bound for Washington. The next, she was lying on the floor of a tilted rail car with another woman on top of her.
Fortson, like dozens of other passengers, managed to escape with only a few bumps and bruises Monday after the train derailed about 10 miles from its destination — Washington's Union Station.
"It was like a dream, but, thank God, it didn't turn into a nightmare," said Fortson, who was traveling from Pittsburgh. She and some 40 others were evaluated by paramedics and given food and water by the Red Cross at Kensington's Town Hall.
In all, more than 90 people were injured. Passengers described frightening scenes of people bleeding from their heads and limbs. Others said they crawled out of windows to escape overturned rail cars.
"Lots of screaming and hollering. It was pandemonium in there," said Robert Bailey of Capital Heights. Bailey and his wife were taking the train home after a vacation in Michigan.
After the derailment, Sincere Harris, 18, of Philadelphia escaped with her father, brother and a cousin. But her 46-year-old mother, Sheila, was trapped in a bathroom on train. Harris climbed back into the train and used a hammer to open the bathroom door.
"I was terrified," Harris said after arriving at Union Station in Washington. "I just had to tell myself, be strong. Now it's just starting to sink in."
Sean Hill, 16, from Lawrence, Kan., was listening to a CD when the train started shaking. The car he was riding in started to go off the tracks and he "went flying."
"I think a lot of people took the train because they were afraid of flying because of Sept. 11. And then this happens," Sean said.
After about an hour at Town Hall, passengers boarded a bus bound for Union Station to pick up their luggage and head home.
Fifteen-year-old Andrea Mieses of Pittsburgh tightly embraced her 17-year-old cousin, Katie Klingensmith of Silver Spring, who rushed to Town Hall with her mother.
"I want to cry. I am real happy to be with my family," Mieses said, standing with her arm around her cousin.