Crash of the Century
Ninety-five years ago, a horrific train wreck wiped a Brooklyn street off the map, and changed the city’s subway system forever.
At the unassuming corner of Flatbush and Ocean Avenues, where the greenery of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden abuts a Wendy’s in a drab stretch of Crown Heights, if you look over a low stone wall and through the chain link and trees, you can see a curve of train track making a sharp jog into a tunnel.
If you had been standing on this spot in the crisp night air, just after seven p.m. on November 1, 1918, you would have been part of a large, anxious crowd. And had you been able to push to the front, you would have witnessed a single man exiting the tunnel alone. He was a businessman who lived in Brooklyn, along the Brighton Beach train line. It was a Friday night, and he had been traveling home for a weekend of rest. His mind had likely been occupied not only with his work but also the impending peace in Europe—an imminent end to the carnage of World War I was beginning to brighten the newspaper headlines.
But that night he emerged “almost divested of clothing…