Wednesday, April 23, 2014
spite of the devil

Student’s familiar paths lead to accident photos

By Andy Gross

The story of the derailment Sunday morning of a Metro-North train that killed four and injured dozens was an event writ large.

As with any tragedy, scores of smaller narratives played out in the shadow of the primary event.

Eli Mernit’s story is one of those accounts.  

Mr. Mernit’s close-up shots of the wreckage alongside the tracks appeared on The Press’ website in the hours following the derailment Sunday morning.

The Northeastern University economics major’s family lives on Palisade Avenue overlooking the derailment site.

Back home for the Thanksgiving holiday, Mr. Mernit said the sound of first responders using a large hydraulic tool commonly refered to as the Jaws of Life to reach passengers out of overturned train cars awakened him.

Mr. Mernit said he walked toward the train tracks to snap his pictures. By the time he arrived at the site, emergency personal were already on the scene, with more en route. He stayed throughout the day and witnessed the various press conferences, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s brief address offering payers for victims of the accident.

Mr. Mernit said he grew up in the neighborhood and knew how to get close to the tracks for his shots. He descended the stairs at Half Moon Overlook and then went through the woods until he was, as he described, “almost eye-level with an overturned locomotive 12 feet above the tracks.”

Mr. Mernit said he had planned to visit relatives in Westchester on Sunday with his father and brother, but emergency vehicles clogging the street would have prevented the family from driving back onto Palisade Avenue. He said that by evening, police officers began checking people’s identification, allowing only residents into the area surrounding the crash.

“It was hard to process all that was going on,” Mr. Mernit said. “Our quiet street was overrun with media. You can get in and out now. I left to go back to school at 5 a.m. this morning [Monday], and the police were still all over.”

Mr. Mernit said Sunday night was not particularly restful. “All night the crash scene was illuminated with very bright lights,” he said. “Media trucks and emergency vehicles all night long.”

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