VALHALLA, N.Y. (AP) — Julie Garla took the 5:29 p.m. train out of Grand Central Terminal on Tuesday. Her husband took the 6:13. In between, there was tragedy.
But Garla, a lawyer from Pleasantville, was back on the train to Manhattan on Thursday as service returned to the Harlem Line just days after six people were killed when the 5:45 train hit a sport utility vehicle at a crossing in the New York City suburbs.
Garla said she was feeling "very lucky and still a little scared." She planned to stay out of the front car, where all five of the passengers who were killed were sitting Tuesday night.
"It was just horrific damage," she said. "I used to prefer the front because when I get to Grand Central it's closer to my office. Now I'll have to balance everyday convenience against safety."
On Tuesday, she said, she was already home feeding her baby when her husband called her, stuck behind the wreck and frantic with fear that she was in the crash.
"It's scary to think about," she said.
Susan Barile, a real estate professional, was riding in the front car Thursday and said she hadn't given it any thought.
"Maybe I should have," she said.
But she said she didn't hesitate to return to the Metro-North Railroad, the nation's second-busiest commuter rail system, "because none of this was their fault, from what I can see."
Bill Peterson, of Dover Plains, said he always rides in the front car and would continue to do so.
"Two reasons," he said as he boarded at White Plains. "First, I believe the Lord's going to protect me. Second, the chances of it happening again are probably tiny."
As trains went through the accident site at a Valhalla crossing, most blasted their horns. One northbound train slowed almost to a stop and inched through the crossing. Others sped through.
From the train windows, the accident site, with all signs of the wreck having been removed, looked almost as it did before the crash, a peaceful scene dominated by woods, deep snow and thousands upon thousands of gravestones in the area's many cemeteries.
Angela Cerrato, riding home to Brewster, said she couldn't help thinking about the people who had died on Tuesday, the five passengers and the SUV's driver.
"I'm sure some of them were my fellow passengers at times," she said. "As I read about them I know they took my train sometimes, and I feel sad, like I know them a little.
"I know my family is waiting for me at home and their families don't have that now."