I'm happy to report that we are all okay.
But let me start at the beginning.
Six couples boarded the Metra train in Mesa.
This lady was standing outside of the Hall, singing her heart out, trying to earn a little money on the side. I'm surprised the dogs weren't howling.
We were at the symphony hall to hear "Feelin' Groovy", a concert of the 60's and Simon and Garfunkel music. A four piece band, called "The Piano Men", led by Jim Witter, (lead vocalist, guitar, piano)
Ian Tanner, (guitar, piano and vocals), arranged ALL the music for the orchestra AND the band.
The conductor, Joseph Young, was only 28 years old!
It was a wonderful concert. Both Jim and Ian have great voices, and when they harmonized, they sounded just like Simon/Garfunkel. Sometimes Jim would start singing a song, just strumming the guitar, and the pureness and richness of his voice echoed off the great walls of the hall. Then the orchestra would start up and the music was so powerful; it gave me goose bumps and brought tears to my eyes.
If you ever have a chance to see these guys perform, I would highly recommend them. They also do a show called, "The Piano Men" and play songs by Elton John and Billy Joel. Click here for their website.
Watch this video showing clips from a recent concert; of course, without a full orchestra backing them up, and without being there in PERSON, you don't quite get the FULL effect, but I think you'll enjoy it.
After the concert we ate dinner at The Old Spaghetti Factory.
Four stops later is where the trouble began.
The train had stopped at a station, but then waited for an extra few minutes before leaving.
The female conductor apologized for the delay but said that "we had to wait here for a few minutes."
And waited some more.
The conductor again apologized for the inconvenience of the delay.
I figured that something had happened to a train in front of us on the line.
Then the conductor announced that the police informed her to hold our train.
With that announcement, a handful of people got off. They looked like students from the local college (ASU) Arizona State University. Hmmm.....I wondered if they had any pot in their backpacks!
All of a sudden several police boarded the train and walked through the three cars, looking at everyone and saying hello.
Then they got off.
Then they came back on, looked around and got off again.
We looked out the windows and noticed that the street was blocked off with squad cars on both sides. Something was certainly up.
Then they came back and announced, "Okay. Everyone has to get off the train. You must leave EVERYTHING here. Your purses, bags, whatever. Do NOT take anything with you. Do not worry about them. They will be okay. The only people on the train will be police officers. Please exit now."
We exited the train, and a couple of officers led us across the street.
But that wasn't far enough AWAY.
We had to walk down the block and into a parking lot.
It seems that a "suspicious package" was reported on the train, and the police were taking it VERY SERIOUSLY and EVERY PRECAUTION.
There was a handful of police trying to keep the crowd together in the parking lot so that no one would wonder off, because, conceivably, we were all suspects, right?
The Sargent announced that they were bringing in a (bomb-sniffing) dog from another town, and it would take 10 minutes or so to get there. So there was more waiting.
I don't think the general mood of the crowd was overall fear. I mean, don't get me wrong, I was scared at times, but once we were away from the train I figured we would be okay. Until my friend said, "Sure, they're checking our items on the bus, but what if one of us has an explosive strapped to them?"
Well, that got me to thinking!
There were many young people who I assumed were from ASU; a few talked to us old folks. It's funny when strangers are thrown into a situation and how you start to feel a camaraderie, right?
This one young man had boarded the train at the airport stop with a large suitcase and backpack. He sat directly across from us and smiled a few times at us. He ended up standing near us in the parking lot and I struck up a conversation with him. He had just returned from going home to New Jersey from spring break. He seemed like a nice guy.
Some of my friends were talking to other students, too.
But I noticed this one guy who kind of gave me the creeps. He was tall, thin, black and stood real close to us, but didn't say a word. Didn't join in the conversation, didn't smile, laugh, nod his head, NOTHING. Just stood there with a sour look on his face. He had on a sweatshirt that was zipped up. It wasn't baggy, but there were a few bumps underneath.....and my imagination went wild. I thought....could he have something strapped to his body? (It was probably an i-Pod!) Was he waiting for the right moment? Why was he standing so close to us?
An officer announced that he wanted us to stand in line, and they were going to take down information about us. Three officers stood ready and waiting. Some people lined up right away, while others milled around. One young black man, whom I assumed was also a student since he was wearing an ASU T-shirt, a cool fedora hat, and jeans, left the paved parking lot and walked up on the gravel and sat on this low wall that ran along one side of the parking lot. He was talking to a couple of kids that weren't part of our group.
All of a sudden one of the police officers spotted him and yelled, "Hey, you! On the wall! I see you trying to ESCAPE! Get over here! NOW!"
The kid jumped down off the wall and immediately came over to the officer.
Again the officer said, "I see you trying to escape! What part of 'Stand over here' don't you understand?!"
The young man protested, "I wasn't trying to ESCAPE! I was just talking to those kids."
The policeman went on to say, "I'm trying to do my job here and I need you to listen. Now let's see your ID."
The kid was smart enough to keep his mouth shut and showed his ID. I was pretty tense at this point because I could see this easily escalating into something ugly.
I don't know if the cop was coming down on the kid extra hard because he was black, or was he really just doing his job in a serious situation?
The police wanted to see some ID from all of us, which was ironic since half of us left our ID's on the train. We didn't know if they were going to run our names through the police computers or what. We couldn't imagine how long THAT would take.
Some of us women had to go to the bathroom so bad, and when we told the officer he informed us that there were NO BATHROOMS around. I suggested that we make a big circle facing out, and one of us stand in the middle and do our business. It was going to have to come to that pretty soon.
Finally an officer said he would escort some of us to the nearby movie theater, but right then we got the all clear to get back on the train. I was feeling better as we walked back down the block - that is, until I saw a policeman with a MACHINE GUN on a tripod, aiming towards a four-story parking garage across from the train - just in case something happened!
We were told to line up outside of the train car we had been sitting in; then the police would let us in one by one. I stood next to Jim in line by our appropriate car. I turned to my left, and standing THISCLOSE to me was that tall black guy.
Geez! My heart skipped a beat. I thought, "Why is he standing so close to me?" I pictured him throwing his arm around my neck and yelling that he had a bomb, and that I was going to be a hostage or something. Plus, he sat in the front of the car, so why was he coming in the back door by us? I immediately scooted over to the other side of Jim and whispered I was scared of that guy.
The police monitored each of us as we got on the train.
We checked our belongings and everyone said that everything was there.
FINALLY, we got the go ahead to pull out of the station.
A few stops later, the young student from New Jersey stood up to leave. He turned and gave us a big smile. "Goodbye!," he called out.
"Have a good night!" I said.
We finally made it back to the park at around 9:00 pm. We were SO happy to be home!
I found out the next morning that someone on our train had texted a friend and used the word "explosion". The friend misunderstood the text and called the police thinking there were explosives on the train. The police had to treat it like a real threat.
It was a night I won't soon forget!