From: Chris Stroup
At 5:25 pm on November 7, 1916, an electric trolley plunged off the Sumner Street drawbridge into the chilly waters of Boston's Four Point Channel killing 46 passengers. According to the Boston Journal, it was "the worst tragedy in the history of the city." Moments before the disaster, a young salesman, Arthur Smith, had packed himself into a nondescript trolley car with dozens of other commuters for the routine ride home. In an instant, he was struggling against the rising tide filling Car 393, tangled up with the mob of other terrified commuters fighting for their lives. Arthur managed to smash through a window of the submerged car with the back of his head, but as he was pulling himself to freedom, his coat snagged on the jagged opening. The same coat that moments before warmed him as he darted through the early-evening chill filling Boston's streets was now weighing Arthur down, clinging to him as the only hinderance between himself and the life-giving air above.
Hebrews 12.1 challenges us "to lay aside every weight and sin that clings so closely," so that we can run with endurance the race that is set before us. Arthur Smith's story shed a new light on this metaphor for me. It reminded me that the things that weigh us down change throughout our life. Our lives change (for good and bad) in an instant, and sometimes the things that weigh us down and cling to us change just as quickly. The author of Hebrews calls us to look to Jesus, the pioneer of our faith, in order to reorient ourselves to him. This allows us to become aware of those ever-changing weights that hinder us.
After struggling for a moment to get his coat off, Arthur wrestled himself free, thrust himself to the surface of the channel, and was pulled into the cool night air by someone from the gathered crowd of the witnesses.
I live in East Boston with my superstar wife and three children and have fallen in love with Boston history. My information on the trolley disaster and Arthur Smith came from an excellent piece in the Boston Globe. You can read here.