When The Whistle Didn't Blow

The loud sound of the trains' whistle may annoy some here in Norcross, but as for me, the trill is as soothing as a baby's lullaby.

For more than 100 years a train whistle has assured Norcross that all is right with the world.

Farmers living miles away from the center of town could hear the whistle and knew that the trains brought with them opportunity to trade their cotton and corn.

Children long ago took a chance on getting whipped with a switch to play dangerously close to, and sometimes under at the culvert, the tracks, thrilled by the comings and goings of commuters and excited to watch the post master snag mail bags on big hooks that swung back and forth from the depot.

Trains brought work and for many years gangs of rail crews lived here in town off of Wingo Street, when it was still called ‘Railroad Street’, in canvas tent houses.

Edward Buchanan, an orphan-turned-self-made millionaire, rolled into town in a fancy Pullman car, often bringing other well-to-do New York types with him spending their cash in our dry goods mercantile and fine hotels. Trains are what made Norcross a town in October of 1870 and trains are what continue to delight anyone who appreciates our rich railroad history.

Many train wrecks and a fair share of low riding big rigs stuck while trying to cross have stopped the normally steady flow north and south for hours at a time before, but, on Sept, 11, 2001, in an effort to thwart more terrorist attempts, the federal government halted all public air and ground transportation systems. For almost a week no planes dotted the sky and no trains barreled through Norcross.

The uninterupted silence was eerily deafening.

It shook me to my core. For years our son had fallen asleep to the sound of the whistle, calling his bedtime routine, "getting on the sleeper car."

For many, the train whistle is a melodic lullaby. The rumble of the rails, the ding, ding, ding, of the cross bucks, the steady flow of strong engines pulling freight and Amtrak cars through the middle of downtown, and yes the loud train whistle, is at the heart of what makes Norcross, Norcross.

Loud is the silence that strikes you

When the whistle doesn’t blow.

It was just another Tuesday morning, off to school and work we go.

Sounds of transportation are the normal roar.

But by ten o’clock, how deep the tragedy, we did not know.

Could the events of the day quickly start another world war?

Loud is the silence that strikes you,

When the whistle doesn’t blow.

By noon we stared at one another, shaken to our core.

Confused we wondered, could our country take much more?

Everyone was rushing home, no concentration left.

Towers were crumbling, planes were tumbling, and a terrified nation’s pain was felt.

By six o’clock that evening, did anyone sit to eat?

Too busy focused on loved ones with whom we wished to speak.

Loud is the silence that strikes you,

When the whistle doesn’t blow.

Numb and sad and shocked and stunned,

I stepped outside to breath,

Frightened by the terrible truth of what evil had been done.

I drew in pure September air, long and slow, how could I ever know?

The length and breadth of courage my fellow Americans would show.

Loud is the silence that strikes you,

When the whistle doesn’t blow.


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