great stories

ernest-024[1]

Rev. E. Anderson
TRAIN TO BARCELONA
Jori Senter Stuart

It was spring break, I was 18 and life was wonderful. I had just completed one semester of school in Germany and was on my way to a second term in England. Between semesters, a friend and I decided to do a little sightseeing and had charted our course to cover eight countries in twenty-eight days.

We had just spent a few days basking in the sun-filled little town of Nice along the French Riviera. Now our francs had almost run out—a sign it was time to pack up and move on. We stuffed our meagre belongings into our backpacks and lumbered to the train station like a couple of pack mules.

By the time we arrived at the train station, the mass of humanity waiting for trains had already begun to spill out into the streets. Apparently, all 50,000 college students on spring break were trying to take the morning train out of Nice. As we elbowed our way to the ticket counter, we kept hearing the ominous words: “train strike.”

“No trains,” the man behind the counter confirmed. “May be a day. May be a week.”

Discouraged, we looked for a spot to set up camp. Once settled, we took stock of our situation. Between the two of us, we had enough food to last the day. Bottled water, two peanut butter-jelly sandwiches and two oranges. Our monetary supply consisted of exactly twelve francs. Suddenly we felt a very long way from home.

Seven hours later, the scene had not changed much except the crowd was larger, tempers were hotter, and word of the stranded tourists had made it out to the streets. Rough looking teens began to slouch among the throng, looking for easy tar¬gets. I was comforted some by the group of American students who were camped out next to us. They were busy playing cards and writing postcards home.

“I’m going to call around and find a way out of this place.” My friend was obviously growing impatient. “You watch the stuff and I’ll go make a few phone calls.”

I wadded my jacket against the pillar and tried to settle in for the night. Things were growing quieter in the station.

Suddenly, from behind the pillar I heard the voice hissing at me, “Don’t say anything. Just give me your money and your passport and we’ll leave you alone.”

He had come out from behind the pillar and stood tall and menacing in front of me. His hat hung low over his eyes.

“I’m sorry. I don’t understand….” I was hoping he would get frustrated and give up.

He obviously was not so easily put off.

“You know what I want, American. I suggest you stop playing games with me before I get really angry….”

Even as he spit the words at me, a stranger from the group of American students next to us had grabbed my arm and was pulling me to my feet.

“Our train has just pulled in. Grab your pack and let’s go before we lose our seats.”

A blond pony-tailed girl in baggy sweatshirt and jeans was hoisting my friend’s backpack onto her shoulders, chatting to me all the while.

“Where did you go? I’ve been looking all over for you…come on, we have to run. You will excuse us, won’t you?” She brushed us both past the would-be robber. He was too surprised to say anything but in one last-ditch effort he grabbed at my arm. My rescuer was too quick for him as she propelled me through the crowd.
After what seemed an eternity of pushing and shoving, we reached a clearing in the crowd. Shaking, I set my backpack beside a bench and turned to thank the one who had just saved me. But all I found was my friend’s red backpack, leaning neatly up against the wall. The gray sweatshirt and blond ponytail had disappeared back into the crowd.

Suddenly I heard my name being called.

“Jori.” My friend was running down the platform toward me. “Where have you been? Why didn’t you stay by the pillar?”

We sat down on the bench and I began to tell my adventure. I was interrupted by the announcement over the public address system.

“Train to Barcelona now arriving on Track 4. Train to Barcelona now arriving on Track 4.”

We looked up at the platform number above our heads and saw we were sitting on platform number 4! Already we could see the engine’s light shining at us from down the track.

Later, as we watched the French countryside glide by outside our train window, I said to my friend, “And I didn’t even get to say thank you to her.”

My friend said simply, “I think she knows.”

And somehow, I felt she did too.

For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. – Psalm 91: 11

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