April 2 was the first day of the Qingming Festival (Tomb Sweeping Day) and everyone was ready to head out for ancestor worship or a leisurely vacation. At 9:28 a.m., a collision and derailment accident occurred in Hualien on TRA Train No. 408, resulting in serious injuries and deaths that shook Taiwanese society to the core.
I had just started playing Monopoly with my two kids at home in the evening when my phone rang. A colleague from Taipei called to tell me that a friend had also taken the 408 train this morning and his family in Taitung had not been able to contact him after the incident. This made them very worried and asked me, as I was in Hualien at that time, for assistance.
Sensing that the parents of the man who was onboard the train were in extreme anxiety, I immediately decided to head out to help, but when I turned around to leave home, I saw the disappointed eyes of my sons! I didn't dare to look any further and drove straight out the door. When I entered the office, I immediately called the Taiwan Railway Administration, local hospitals, the fire department and the municipal mortuary, but none of them had registered the friend's name. During the period, I kept in touch with his family in Taitung and reassured them. Perhaps the friend was in a coma and was being treated in the hospital and did not have an ID, so he could not be reached for the time being. I asked them to rest and take the first northbound train the next day.
At 6:00 a.m., I drove down Zhikaxuan Boulevard while gazing at the rising sun and picked up the parents at the Hualien Railway Station. Naturally it was not something we wanted to do, but we decided to go to the Hualien City Mortuary Services to find out more. When we arrived at the city’s mortuary, I went straight to the family identification area, where a thick pile of photos from 1 to 40 were there. I accompanied the friend’s parents to identify them one by one, while observing their expressions from time to time. Tense silence and uneasiness filled the air. Suddenly the mother burst into tears, and my mood also hit rock bottom.
After receiving the death certificate, arrangements were made in the afternoon to go to the scene of the accident to recall the souls of hundreds of family members at the railroad trackside calling out loudly for their loved ones to come home. The scene was tragic and heavens responded by sending down pouring rain. It was a day of grief and anguish both in the heavens and here in the mortal world. After spending a day with the friend’s family, I realized they are truly wonderful people. I didn't see my friend's father shed tears or display many emotional fluctuations throughout the day. However, during the car ride to and from the venue, which lasted over an hour, he shared many past memories of my friend. It was only then that I noticed tears filling his eyes. This emotional state began to affect the other family members in the car, and it spread from one person to another, resulting in wailing cries resonating throughout the vehicle... The friend's dad, mom and younger sister took the 8:30 pm Puyuma Express train back to Taitung that evening. As we bid farewell in front of the train station, the friend's dad tightly held onto my hand and kept expressing his gratitude. Watching their silhouette as they departed, tears uncontrollably streamed down my face.
The work of the case investigators has warmed and comforted many of those in need. But after turning around, it is up to you to comfort yourself and know how to release the emotions in your heart. I hope the friend will rest in peace and that the family's heartbreaking pain will slowly heal.