Shawn Potter’s Story
Shawn Potter, a 15 year old from California, lost his life playing chicken on train tracks with friends several years ago.
Robin Potter with a photo of her son Shawn
Robin Potter, mother of three teenage boys from Fresno, CA, won't forget calling her middle son, 15 year old Shawn, one evening during spring break a few years ago. Work had been hectic so she was a little late leaving to pick him up. Shawn, she remembers, was out of breath. He told his mother he was 'just running around.' To Robin, that sounded perfectly normal. Handsome, blue-eyed, blond-haired Shawn loved playing baseball and football, so Robin figured he was with friends enjoying a ball game in the park near his friend's house.
He didn't dare tell the truth, that he and friends were playing chicken on local railroad tracks, waiting for a train to come through so they could have the thrill of jumping off seconds before it roared past. As one approached, his two friends jumped clear, but Shawn, always the competitor, stayed on just a hair too long. The train hit, clipping Shawn and throwing his body yards from the tracks. The force of the collision severed his spinal cord in half and caused massive internal injuries. Though surgeons at a local hospital fought to save him, within five hours he was dead.
Today Robin Potter is haunted by the things her son will never do: He won't get his license, he didn't graduate with the rest of his class this spring, he never went to his prom. "My son Shawn lost his life because he thought he could outrun a train," says Potter, now an active spokeswoman for California's Operation Lifesaver. "Shawn knew that trains are dangerous, he knew better than to be on those tracks that day, but he didn't think he was going to get hit - he didn't think it was going to happen to him. This can happen to anybody and the message is simple: Staying away from tracks is common sense and it can save your life."
About Operation Lifesaver
Operation Lifesaver’s mission is to end collisions, deaths and injuries at highway-rail grade crossings and on rail property through a nationwide network of volunteers who work to educate people about rail safety. Our national office in Alexandria, VA, supports state programs, developing videos, educational brochures, instructional information and other materials for audiences of all ages. Our state coordinators are located in all 50 states.
Operation Lifesaver, Inc.
1420 King Street, Suite 201
Alexandria, VA 22314
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