Morning commutes are a drag pretty much everywhere, but they become even worse when you’re held up by something completely out of your control. Sure, there’s nothing you can do about a broken rail or flat tire, but when your day is ruined by a fellow commuter, it’s easy to let your frustrations take hold.
Just ask the men and women aboard the Réseau Express Régional – one of the busiest trains in Europe – who were livid after one morning’s commute was interrupted by the antics of a fellow passenger. The commuters demanded answers, but when the loudspeaker finally crackled its response, they discovered that the inconsiderate delay was actually a miracle…
Opened in 1977, the Réseau Express Régional is a commuter transit system that serves the Paris metropolitan areas. Unlike the Paris Métro, the RER is a hybrid system used for both commuter and rapid transit purposes.
Josep / Flickr
On a typical workday, the RER serves an average of 1.2 million Parisians. But even with its highly trained personnel and a rail system run by state-of-the-art technology, the RER still has its fair share of inconvenient delays.
During the spring of 2018, a series of rolling rail worker strikes made delays almost a daily occurrence. This was surely a headache for RER commuters, but later that year, one on-train incident truly redefined the concept of bad luck on the French railroad.
The delay in question took place in June of 2018 on the RER’s Line A. Stretching 67.5 miles and servicing 46 individual stops, Line A is easily the RER’s busiest railway… and the one that could least afford a delay.
Morning commuters were busy flipping through newspapers and scrolling their newsfeeds when the RER suddenly came to a screeching halt. Glancing out the window, passengers noticed the train running in the opposite direction had stopped as well.
Michael Day / Flickr
Business-clad Parisians were left scratching their heads over the unexplained delay, as the RER’s Twitter feed provided no clarity as to the cause of the holdup. Yet somewhere up ahead, commuters Eliaine and Aurélie had an entirely different problem on their hands.
Just moments before, Eliaine and Aurélie had been seated on the lower level of the double-decker train, minding their own business on what appeared to be just another normal day. But as they sat, the women picked up on something strange echoing down from the car above them.
Terretta / Flickr
From where they were seated, the sound was almost like a soft moan, tired and weak, like that of someone in pain. They wrote it off at as the muffled noises of a few kids horsing around, but when a commotion broke out they knew they had to investigate.
When they arrived in the upper car, the women were shocked to find that every passenger had seemingly vanished. Had they all gotten off at once at the previous stop? And if so, why?
Hans-Ulrich Röscheisen / Flickr
As Eliaine and Aurélie walked along the aisle, they realized that they weren’t alone after all. In the back of the car, lying across the seat, was a lone woman. But this wasn’t just any woman: she was a pregnant woman. And judging by the look on her face, she wasn’t going to be pregnant for much longer…
“We saw the mother wobble,” explained Eliaine, recounting how she and Aurélie immediately went to work to help the delivering woman. “We laid her down and I just had time to take hold of the baby that was coming into my arms.”
With the child just moments away, neither woman was willing to leave the mother’s side to call for an ambulance. Luckily, they caught sight of a curious passerby, who at their behest quickly ran off to alert medical personnel.
“I could only think about putting the baby aside so he could breathe and cutting the umbilical cord,” Eliaine recalled. “Aurélie made sure that the mother remained conscious and that the baby was not cold.”
Radha Madhava / Flickr
Emergency services arrived soon after, and the child’s official time of birth was recorded as 11:40 AM. After making sure that both the infant and the mother were stable, medical personnel escorted them from the train and brought them to a nearby hospital.
As for the passengers on the RER, the hours of irritation and unanswered questions were finally met with a loudspeaker announcement celebrating the birth of the child. The train resumed its journey and soon returned to normal speed… though not quite as fast as the news of the newborn was about to travel.
Moss Travel Media / YouTube
The story of the remarkable RER birth quickly went viral, and online users had plenty to say about the incident. Most people commended Eliaine and Aurélie for their quick thinking and heroic actions; others lamented the fact that the child’s first breath was likely of the train’s notorious pollution.
Theories were also thrown around – in jest – as to how the birth came to be, with many referring back to a video that had gone viral a few months prior. For a number of users, this video – which showed two riders getting “intimate” on the RER – seemed to perfectly explain the child’s strange circumstance.
Eventually, word of the birth reached the French government, which Tweeted: “All sorts of events occur on the RER, some of them happier than others! A long and happy life to the baby.” But even with the child healthy and free to live a normal life, the RER wasn’t done with him just yet…
In honor of the unusual birth, the RER network announced that the child will be able to ride their trains for free until his 25th birthday. And so, for the next 25 years, this little guy gets to be the envy of commuters everywhere!
But beneath all the jokes and celebrations lies a troubling question: why did the other passengers on the train car leave when the pregnant woman was clearly in need? Thankfully, however, the selfless actions of two complete strangers were all it took to help one mother avoid a potentially life-threatening disaster.