He paused a moment as tears flooded his eyes. Wiping them away quickly he looked at his son, then at the train. Torn between the two, the tears kept coming and he didn’t know what to do. He only had a few more seconds to decide before the train came to the point where, if he chose to lower the bridge, it would smash itself against the end as well as destroy his son.
He shook his head as a shudder racked his body and he uttered something unintelligible through a choked sob. Looking away, he buried his head into his left arm and leaned it against the window as he yanked the lever down to its stop with his right hand gripped tightly around it.
In his mind’s eye he watched his young son scream as the gears began to turn and crush him between their metal teeth. His son’s body being crushed and broken open as it went through till the metal monsters spit him out to the platform below.
He opened his eyes and raised his head slightly to peer out the control cabin’s window as the bridge slowly lowered itself down toward the tracks. The train was coming much faster than the drawbridge could lower itself and through the mental anguish more fear came as he thought that he had pulled the lever too late.
Frozen in pain and trepidation, the train’s whistle blasted once more as its truck wheels crossed onto the bridge. He watched in horror as the train continued on at the same speed, the conductor oblivious to the fact that the bridge was not yet lowered; the conductor was assuming that it would be down as it always was and things would never change.
With smoke belching from its stack as it trailed behind it, the Memphis Express continued on towards what could turn into chaotic destruction that would leave its ruins beneath the water of the great river.
John could easily have blamed the conductor for not having looked at the warning light down beyond the bridge, the warning light that should have shown red to tell the conductor the bridge was up and that he needs to slow the train and blow the whistle. John would not have been responsible for the failure of the train’s driver. He didn’t know a single passenger aboard that train. Their names he’d never know. He had no reason to kill his son to save total strangers except that it was the right thing to do. To sacrifice your only child whom you love so greatly to save those who would not know and not care that his decision saved all their lives.
His sacrifice saved 400 people that day. The drawbridge fully lowered itself to level with the tracks just before the train’s wheels rolled over it and it continued on to safety.
He moved to where he could see the train. To where he could see the faces of the people in each window as they passed by. He saw a man reading a newspaper. He saw the conductor looking down at his pocket watch. He saw ladies in the dining car enjoying their tea. In one window he saw a boy who looked like his son push a spoon into a bowl of icecream. He saw the people whom he’d never know as they relaxed or laughed in small conversation aboard the train, completely oblivious to what had just happened.
He screamed at them as he broke down. “What’s the matter with you people!? Don’t you know!? Don’t you care!? I killed my son for you!? What’s wrong with you!?”
But none of them heard him. None of them knew what he did. Most wouldn’t thank him even if they did know. As the train rolled on down the tracks and vanished from sight, he was left alone to collapse to the ground in anguish over the loss of his son for people he’d never meet.
This is a true story, as I’ve already stated. It’s an obscure story, it would seem. It’s a story I heard in Church on the Easter Sunday service. Afterwards, I asked my pastor about it and took mental notes then researched it at home. The sacrifice John Griffith made for 400 people that day was a terrible one. Just as God let His son die for the World that would not care, John let his son die for 400 people aboard the Memphis Express. Neither he nor God had to do this. They both did it willingly. God let us kill Jesus so that we could go to Heaven. John killed Greg so that people who might be your grand parents could live. He gave up what meant the most to him. In doing so, untold numbers of people have him to thank for being alive.
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The True and Tragic Story of John Griffith and the Memphis Express.Non-Fiction
This is a true story of great sacrifice on the part of John Griffith, father of an 8 year old boy who fell into the gear-assembly of the drawbridge John operated in 1937. As the 400-passenger Memphis Express steams down the tracks nearing the open b...