Subway tragedy: Everything changed in a New York minute

A woman going about her work-a-day routine dropped her gym bag onto a subway track at the start of Thursday night’s rush hour. Then she did what every New Yorker knows instinctively not to do: She jumped onto the track to retrieve it.

On the 11 o’clock news, we saw transit workers washing away her blood.

Within minutes, bloggers were on it … even the New York Times’ City Room was updating, and in this case the Times drew ahead of the pack.

When something like this happens, people want to know about it now. Not in an hour, not on the six o’clock or 11 o’clock news — now. In New York, particularly when it involves the city’s lifeline — the subways — and even more so when it happens at a station filled with youngsters heading home from school, people — included worried parents — want information immediately.

Chad Rachman shot the dropped bag that led to a 48-year-old woman's death. The picture ran on page one of the NY Post.

With that in mind … what’s left for next day print?

Friday morning’s papers covered the story in grizzly detail, and there’d be more on Saturday. A 48-year-old woman (initially reported as a school-age girl) died as she attempted to scramble back onto the platform, squeezed between the train and the platform.

From the Daily News:

“The train hit her and her head was stuck between the platform and the train,” said Katy Liang, 12, a seventh-grader at Robert Wagner Middle School.

“A woman was screaming ‘La cabeza! La cabeza!” said Katy, saying the Spanish word for “head.

The NY Post (pictured) carried the day. Instead of joining the Times and News in featuring shots of emergency workers on the station platform, it zeroed in on the bag the woman was attempted to recover. Inside, gym clothes and toiletries. Nothing worth dying for. Kudos to photographer Chad Rachman who waited for that shot.

From the Post account:

“You could see some woman with her head stuck in between the train [and the platform] and her arms sticking out,” recalled witness Andrew Pistella, 30. “Some guy was screaming, ‘Is this real? Is this real?’ It looked like a mannequin.”

It was bedlam on the platform, with children, teenagers and old ladies shrieking hysterically, witnesses said.

“Who drops their [bag] down there, then jumps down there to get it?” Pistella asked.

The money quote’s in the Times’ follow-up account one day later:

Her father, Robert Mankos, 82, said Friday that he had hardly begun to process his daughter’s death and that he already felt stretched past his limit from caring for his wife, who has Parkinson’s disease and diabetes.

“I felt like 60 before,” he said in a phone interview from his home in North Bergen, N.J. “I feel like 105 now.”

Ms. Mankos lived by herself and had never married, her father said. He said she often visited her mother at a nursing home in New Jersey.

Mr. Mankos said he could not fathom why his daughter had jumped onto the subway tracks. “I guess she dropped her purse,” he said. “Except you never do that. Never.”

The family was planning a small private service in the coming days.

“It’s too late now,” Mr. Mankos said. “I’ll be praying for the rest of my life, until I die.”

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