Chicago Police Officer Nial Funchion said it appeared to him Monday's train derailment unfolded in slow motion.
"We looked down and it was like slow motion," Officer Funchion said. "It was like a movie being filmed, and 'I'm not sure but, is this thing going to stop?'"
Funchion is part of the CPD's First Watch at O'Hare International Airport. Walking down to the CTA platforms is part of his routine, and he was just about to do that when he and a passing traveler exchanged pleasantries. Then they noticed the approaching light and realized the train was not stopping.
In video from a surveillance camera, they are seen darting out of the way as the train flies up the stairs and escalator. The video doesn't have sound, but Funchion says the derailment was deafening.
"At the end it came to a stop and it was like, 'Is this really happening?' Holy mackerel. It was unbelievable," he said.
Funchion and other officers raced down to the dark, smoky platform and started helping the injured, many of whom were in quiet shock trying to figure out what had happened.
"I wasn't quite sure what we were going to see," he said. "We were just kind of biting down saying, 'Oh man. Here we go.'"
Fortunately for everyone, none of the injuries was life-threatening. Police, and later firefighters, got the injured to ambulances. The train operator did acknowledge to police on scene that she'd fallen asleep, which was confirmed by the NTSB Wednesday.
The investigation will also look at the placement of trip arms that are supposed to engage the train's emergency braking. The last trip at O'Hare is only 41 feet from the end of the line, not a lot of space for braking to fully engage.
The lead car has been cut into pieces that have been removed. The other cars were pulled out of the station intact.
Funchion meanwhile is thankful a brief conversation with a stranger kept him from walking down the steps at the wrong time.
"I got lucky," he said. "We all got lucky that day."
The NTSB has completed its investigation at the scene, and the CTA anticipates the O'Hare station, one of the busiest on the Blue Line, will be open sometime this weekend.