The surveillance video needs no narration to convey the panic. A subway train stops at a platform. A little boy with a backpack gets off, holding the hand of a man behind him. But before the man can exit the train, the door closes.
As the train pulls away, the little boy looks befuddled as the hand remains extended out the door, straining futilely to reestablish contact.
It happened at 8:15 on a Monday morning in Portland, Ore. Aaron Bailey was riding the city’s TriMet subway with his 3-year-old son, Aiden. But when they arrived at the Main Street station, a perfectly ordinary commute turned into a parent’s nightmare.
“I had him in my hand,” Bailey told reporter Anne Yeager of NBC affiliate KGW in Portland. “And when he was exiting, he pulled the handicap [button].”
The inadvertent action of the child actually should have provided his dad additional time to get off the train. Instead, for reasons no one has been able to explain, the doors closed early and the train left, carrying Bailey with it. The video, aired by TODAY Friday, shows little Aiden looking forlornly at the departing train, as if trying to understand why his dad isn’t joining him on the platform.
Inside the train, Bailey did what any parent would do. “I frantically tried to push the open button, but they didn’t open,” Bailey said.
As the train continued inexorably on its way with its doors firmly closed, the desperate dad hit the button again and again and again — at least 10 times. “Being panicked, I pushed the emergency button, and there was no answer,” Bailey recounted.
Meantime, little Aiden was still standing bewildered on the platform. But fortunately for the little boy and his dad, he was not alone.
The surveillance tape shows a woman with bright red hair standing next to Aiden. Realizing what had happened, she bends down to reassure him. She takes him by the hand and stays with him while Aiden’s dad is compelled to ride to the next stop.
Bailey then leapt off the train and made a mad dash for the opposite platform, where he caught the next train back to the Main Street station. After what had to have been the longest seven minutes of his life, he arrived back on the platform where he lost his son.
“I was overwhelmed with emotion. We embraced, and I cried for a minute, and everything is OK,” Bailey said.
But Bailey was more than a little annoyed at the transit authority. He tried to call TriMet to get an explanation, but received no response. Only when KGW got on the story did an authority spokeswoman say no one knew why the doors closed and the emergency stop button didn’t work.
“We’re looking at this case ... it was very unfortunate,” she said.
Bailey still hopes for an explanation. But he’s also very grateful that a woman with bright red hair was there to make everything better.
The father also said he has a new personal rule for riding subways: “I will never push that button again.”