Last week I get a call from neighbor, Tom Lohse, who wanted to talk about light rail safety. His daughter, Shana, had recently been killed by a train at the Westgate Station in our community and he felt her tragic death could have been prevented. He told me he's retired and doesn't sleep much these days, so he has plenty of time to think and rethink the unfortunate circumstances that might have meant the difference between life and death for Shana. If you ask him how it feels to go through all this, he will tell you succinctly, "It's horrible."

I have two daughters and if this had happened to one of them, I don't know how I would deal with the pain and anguish Tom is currently trying to see his way through. He has decided to channel his grief into an "obsession" - his word - to figure out ways to make the Green Line safer. His guess as to what happened on that awful day is that his daughter, late for an appointment to help a friend move, saw her westbound train coming and didn't realize the east bound was pulling up to the station behind her. She had her ear buds in and may have been texting her apologies for the late start or she may have been listening to music, she was certainly distracted in some way. In that terrible intersection of timing and tragedy she stepped into the path of the eastbound train coming into the station at 31 mph.

Tom has contacted most of our elected officials. Everyone is sympathetic, some more engaged than others. He has received condolences from them and a few hugs. This morning I accompanied him to a meeting with Sue Haigh, head of the Met Council which runs light rail. I wasn't sure what to expect but I know Tom wanted to be heard and Ms. Haigh, bless her heart, had agreed to the meeting immediately. She brought along Brian Lamb, General Manager of Metro Transit, Pat Born, the Regional Administrator and I invited our local Met Council rep, Jon Commers.

They gave heartfelt condolences and just as importantly, they listened. They took notes, they asked questions about Tom's ideas, prepared after much personal research: better signals, warning apps for smart phones, gates to prevent inattentive actions around the trains and more. They took his suggestions seriously and they took his pain seriously. He also had some thoughts about the way Metro Transit had publicly reacted to the incident, with an officious statement aligned more with necessary legal considerations than the kind of personal sympathy shown in the meeting. He'd like them to rethink that and I believe they will.

I know this won't be the last family that has to deal with an accidental death or injury involving light rail. Data from here, and around the country show we can expect several a year. Any system this size that interacts with thousands of people on a daily basis...people in a hurry, people distracted, people not used to the sometimes slim margins for error inherent in any transit system, no matter how safely designed and maintained...will have to deal with tragedy and sorrow. I know the Met Council wants to do whatever it can to prevent future accidents and I hope they can find ways to implement some of Tom's suggestions because I think they would help. They've promised to keep him in the loop and I know that means a lot to Tom.

I can tell you after the meeting today that we are fortunate to have people in positions of authority who are compassionate, empathetic and willing to do the right thing - to take a meeting and look into the eyes of a dad and a grandpa with a newly orphaned grandson - and commit to finding answers...for Tom and his family, for Shana, and for the rest of us who will use this amazing and critical transit option. When you use it, I know Tom would ask you to please be careful. To teach your kids to be careful, tell your friends to be careful. And if you have ideas that you think could make light rail safer, go ahead and send them in, Metro Transit will listen. 

Music in the Park Series is bringing the highly touted Danish String Quartet to the UCC church on Sunday, October 12 at 4pm. They follow that with the Miami String Quartet on October 26, same time. Both concerts should be tremendous and a great way to usher in fall. More info at the Schubert Club's website.

The 22nd Annual Kuehnast Lecture Oct. 7 at 3pm, St. Paul Campus Center, will feature author, musician, and award-winning journalist Andrew Revkin of The New York Times and Pace University. Revkin is known widely as the founder of the Dot Earth blog. His lecture, "The New Communication Climate," will explore issues and opportunities arising as both the environment and the news media experience an era of unprecedented and unpredictable change. Refreshments will follow the program. 

Avalon School is holding their annual Senior Night also on October 7 from 7-8:30pm. Their seniors publicly present their topics and ideas for the final project. Topics are varied and they welcome input and expertise from mentors. They are also looking for community members willing to be a part of student committees. These are bright, dedicated young people and your time spent with them will be valuable to them and you. Contact Nora to find out more.

The Mid-Continent Oceanographic Institute, our local tutoring center on University Avenue, has a crowdsourcing campaign on until Oct. 9 to raise money for their program. Check it out and help if you can. They do good work for area high-schoolers. They could also use some tutoring help. Interested in volunteering? Email Moira@moi-msp.org

That's all for now. Take care of yourself and be a good neighbor.