By Ivett de las Mercedes
HAVANA TIMES – On September 21st 1998, Yosier Hernandez Quinones, then 7 years old, confirmed that miracles really do exist. Even today, twenty years later, people still remember that night in the Pinar del Rio province, which includes the city of Candelaria. His mother, Aida Hernandez Quinones (54 years old), hasn’t forgotten a single detail.
HT: Did you use to take the train which leaves from Havana to Pinar del Rio very often?
Aida Hernandez: Yes, we used to take that train nearly every week, it’s the cheapest form of transport, we knew that it would always leave on time and that we wouldn’t have to stress around waiting. That night, the train left Havana’s train station at 11 PM, like it always did, and arrives in Candelaria at 2 AM.
HT: How did the accident take place?
AH: I remember that it was 1:45 AM. I would look at my watch when the train used to leave Artemisa station. Yosier would always fall asleep as soon as he sat down. He was carrying a backpack that night and his roller skates inside; he was also holding his sister’s little car in his hand. A few minutes after leaving Artemisa, we had to go to the exit door so as not to miss our stop, we had to get off quickly. There wasn’t any light in any train carriage, which was normal for that train. You couldn’t make anything out in the corridors. Yosier was half-asleep, I told him to be careful where he put his feet and that he hold onto the chairs. When we got to the exit, I realized that the door was an open hole, it didn’t have any leaves and that my son had fallen and I couldn’t do anything.
HT: I imagine it was a terrible moment for you. What did you do?
AH: The only thing I could manage was shout out, I couldn’t speak. Nobody knew what had happened. Passengers nearby hadn’t realized what had happened at all, it was all so fast. The driver came running with a lamp thinking that my suitcase had been stolen and I managed to tell him, almost in a whisper, that my son had fallen off the train.
HT: Did the conductor sound the alarm quickly?
AH: When he sounded the alarm, we were already a few kilometers away from where my son had fallen out and by the time the train came to a stop, a little further on. They didn’t let me get off, I don’t know who stayed with the girl who had some kind of brain disease and used to convulse quite often. Two men were holding me, they feared the worst. The majority of the passengers got off and tried to light the way with matches, lamps, anything they had. That moment of waiting was terrifying, I was shouting and crying grief-stricken. People walked back a few kilometers and they couldn’t find my boy. The driver reversed the train when they had finished looking over a section. Suddenly, they heard crying, he had fallen on top of a pile of grass that had been cut in the morning.
HT: Did they let you see him straight away?
AH: No, they took him to the first carriage. I was so happy that he was alive, I couldn’t have born to have lost him. They asked me not to cry when I saw him so he wouldn’t get frightened, he was healthy. We tried to keep him awake and to keep him still. He seemed to look OK. There weren’t any medical supplies on the train in case of emergency, not even a doctor or a nurse.
HT: They alerted Candelaria then.
AH: They called the Governing Board so they could send a car. When the train arrived at Candelaria station, we got into a car and were taken to the polyclinic. The stretcher was already prepared, doctors examined him, the only thing he had was a small cut on his left eyebrow. At 3 AM, they told me I could take him home, but that I keep an eye on him and that if he woke up with dilated pupils and a headache, then I would have to take him to A&E. I couldn’t sleep, I was so worried.
Just like they had warned me, he woke up at 6:30 AM complaining about a headache and his pupils were dilated. I went to the polyclinic and they sent him to the hospital minutes later. They ran all kinds of tests there. Thank God everything was normal. I think the fact that he didn’t lose his life was a miracle. Now, he is a 27-year-old man, very smart and skilled, he fixes all kinds of electronic equipment, he knows about building work, plumbing and he is always ready to lend a helping hand.
HT: Did you ever travel by train again?
AH: I traveled again so that he wouldn’t be afraid. The drivers already knew us and they would help us get off every time we needed to. I’m sure that no one has survived falling out of a moving train.
HT: You definitely think it was a miracle.
AH: Of course. Only God could have put that pile of grass in the right spot, because according to the train boss, he survived because of it and the air pressure which helped the boy fall without huge impact. There isn’t a mother in the world who can bear losing a child; I know many who have had to suffer this and it isn’t easy at all, the pain is too great to put into words. Remembering this story again, saddens me. I couldn’t even think about that day before. Miracles do exist, that’s what I tell Yosier all the time.