RPI grid star cited for heroism

December 05, 2018 11:36 PM

TROY - It was a frightening and serendipitous moment onboard Train 68, the Adirondack, which pulled out of Rensselaer Station around 7:22 p.m., headed for New York City, the night before Thanksgiving.

"Twenty minutes after we leave, the train, something just wakes me up," Reuben Clarke, a freshman football player for RPI, recalled, "I looked to the back of the train car, I see that the car is detached and there was a huge loud panic in the car."

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Two hundred seventy-eight holiday travelers and crew were along for the ride.

"I was kind of scared myself," Clarke  recalled, "Luckily something just came to me and said to try to control what you can control."

When the train cars came apart, Clarke remembers the rush of cold air blowing through. But because he loves to watch old train movies, he somehow remembered to look for, and then pull the emergency brake.

"It's kind of weird," Clarke begins, "but every time I see those movies (with) runaway trains, there's always emergency brakes. That was the first thought for me, maybe there's an emergency brake, and luckily there was."

On the RPI campus Wednesday night, exactly two weeks after the train mishap, with his football teammates in attendance, Clarke was presented with a certificate of recognition by Troy Mayor Patrick Madden, recognizing him for his heroics.

"He had the presence of mind to know that something needed to be done and he stepped up and did it," Madden stated, "It shows great leadership, great quick-thinking skills, and I'm very proud of him."

RPI football Coach Ralph Isernia says he's not surprised by Clarke's selflessness, asserting that "it shows who he is, what he's all about, and the way he's been brought up."

"The people that he helped on that train, he was thinking more of the whole group, rather than just trying to save himself," Isernia points out, "It's exactly what you're looking for in some of your football players."

An Amtrak spokesman said on Wednesday the incident remains under investigation.

And perhaps the moral of the story is: it takes an engineer to stop a speeding train.


Dan Levy

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