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What Is It Like to Survive a Train Wreck?

06/08/2015 02:49 pm ET | Updated Jun 08, 2016

What is it like to be in a train crash?: originally appeared on Quora: The best answer to any question. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and access insider knowledge. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

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Answer by Faisal Abid, Software Engineer, Entrepreneur and Author

[Here is] where I was sitting at. Seat 9a.

Being in a train crash is a very interesting experience. Its the scariest thing that I've been through, and the most enlightening.

Let me start off by describing how it was scary.

A friend and I were coming back to Toronto from Niagara falls when about 20 minutes or so into the journey, the train bounced and started to tilt sideways.

This is one of those feelings I won't ever forget.

The train probably took less than 10 seconds to tip over, but for me those 10 seconds felt like 10 hours. Since I was sitting on the right side, the same side the train was tipping over to, people, luggage and, even worse, laptops came flying into me.

While I have no idea how far the train skid on its side, it also felt like it wasn't going to end. It kept violently shaking till it finally came to a stop. Once it stopped, that's when things went from worse to ugly.

Once the train stopped, things went quiet for a second. Then the panic started, people started to cry for help, I turned around after managing to stand up and saw that some people really got banged up really bad. I'm not going to elaborate on the injuries out of respect for their privacy but there was quite a lot of blood and people panicking thinking they were going to die.

What made matters worse was the entire train car started to fill with smoke/gas. This was THE scariest moment of my life. Why? It's one thing to die suddenly in a train crash, it's another thing to think that your cabin is being filled with something that is going to explode and you're just waiting for death.

Why couldn't we have just gone out the emergency windows or exits?

All the emergency windows on the right side were blocked by the ground and there was no way to go through the exits on the left side - which was now our roof - because the chairs were crazy unstable with metal sticking out of them. Plus none of us could actually reach that high or climb ourselves up.

Soon we heard from one of the people in charge that the ambulance and firefighters are on their way.

But that wait felt like forever. What happened during those moments is very interesting. First, everyone who wasn't injured started to help out the people in need. Either by telling them everything is going to be okay, or getting them to a safer area. Second, there seemed to be a small community that formed. We got to know each other, not personally, but there was this connection that formed and we knew that whatever happened we were not going to let anything happen to anyone on that train.

Once the firefighters came, they broke in through the top corner of the train and came in. I've never actually seen firefighters up close so it was kinda cool. These guys looked like 'Gears of War' characters, huge with crazy equipment and awesome professionalism. They came in and got right to business. They went to the injured people, they made sure they were safe and got the people who were able to, to help them out.

One of the hardest things to do was leave the train from the other side. Since there were quite a few number of injured people which could not have been taken out right away, we had to unfortunately go over them and the paramedics that were also in the train helping them. Going over them was hard, it felt like a disaster movie, where every step you took you had to make sure the seat wasn't just going to give in and you'll go falling and breaking a leg or something.

We eventually got out of there and were rushed by paramedics who gave us full medical evaluation. We waited in a bus till the authorities told us it was okay to go home, and we basically took a subway home. Nothing dramatic, nothing crazy compared to what we just went through.

How it was enlightening.

During the months before the crash, I was going through a very hard phase because of my first startup. We were battling everyday with the possibility of us failing, and I took it harder than anyone else. After all, I had dropped out of school to follow my passion and it looked like I was going to be a loser for the rest of my life because of my failed startup.

Then the train crash happened and something changed in me. To paraphrase, I saw that life is short; I could be dead tomorrow. I realized that rather than worrying about failure and what people will think of me, I should just focus on what I do, do it to the best of my ability, and keep persisting. If I fail (which my startup did), then great -- I am still breathing and that means I could start my next one (which I've done).

I won't say I've become someone amazing who is super productive all the time, but I have become more mature and more responsible. I know what to do, I know what to focus on. I know not to worry about what people will think of me, because at the end of the day when I die, it wont make a difference what they thought, the only thing that will matter is what I've accomplished.

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