Like a Runaway Train

As the Superheroes of Shipping, Matchmaker Logistics is always on the lookout for heroic acts of service, and this one is especially impressive:
Lodi, California police officer Erica Urrea just happened to be in the right place at the right time, saving a man’s life with seconds to spare. The man’s wheelchair was stuck in the tracks as an oncoming train rapidly approached. Officer Urrea’s body cam footage shows her arriving at the scene and running to pull the man off the tracks to safety. The wheelchair didn’t make it, but the man sustained only a minor leg injury.  You can watch the incredible footage here.

As I marveled at Officer Urrea’s bravery and quick action, my mind couldn’t help but draw parallels. The coronavirus and the events of 2020 have often felt like that speeding train coming to obliterate everything in its path. For those of you outside of our state headquarters, consider that this month North Carolina had a hurricane, tornadoes and an earthquake – all in the same week!

I think we can all identify with that poor man stuck on the tracks with no real options. This year’s schooling conundrum is just one example. Do we isolate children at home for virtual schooling, prohibiting parents from working productively and getting our economy back on track? Or, do we risk the health of our children and educators by sending them to school for in-person learning? Working parents are caught between a rock, a virus, and a hard place.

Wondering if anyone else had equated COVID-19 with an oncoming freight train, I took to the internet. And here’s what I found:


What? A railroad car with the designation COVID-19 stenciled on its side, as if it were carrying a tanker full of the disease-causing virus? Was this for real? A few google searches later, and my suspicions were confirmed. The photo is a fake. But turns out, it did fuel conspiracy theories that the virus was man-made and deliberately released onto a defenseless population.

In the coming months, I have a feeling that there will be more fake news than ever – on both sides of the political spectrum. It’s exhausting trying to discern what’s real and what’s not. Remember “the good ol’ days” when we all got our news from newspapers and three major news channels? Today, AARP reports that only 16 percent of Americans read a printed newspaper. In addition to a large variety of television news channels, about half of American get their news via Facebook, which means it’s filtered to match our browsing habits and align with our world views.

I’m tempted to print out some copies of this worksheet, to use as a fact-checking guide. Debunking fake news takes effort, but there are a few quick and easy ways to check if what you’re seeing or reading is true:

  • Read beyond the headline. Emily Bell, founding director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University says that 70% of people don’t read beyond the headline on articles they share! Read the whole story before liking it or sharing it (or believing it). If the article makes outrageous claims, omits sources and quotes, or rallies with a call to action, beware!
  • Examine the visuals. Amateurish visuals and formatting, poor grammar, misspelled words, all CAPS, overzealous punctuation, or annoying ads are all tipoffs that the source is likely a fake.
  • Check the source. Is it coming from a well-known, respected news outlet? Are other trustworthy news outlets also reporting on this story? Is it satire? Does the web address look legit? Many fake news URLs look odd or end with “” or “.lo”.  For example, there is a fake news site called which intentionally mimics the true, legitimate news behemoth.
  • Identify the author. Google the author’s name (if there isn’t one, think: fake) to see if s/he is listed online as a reporter or journalist.
    See what the fact-checkers say. Try these reputable, well-established fact-checking groups:,,,,,, that will have likely already fact-checked the latest viral claim to pop up in your news feed.

Fuel for thought,
~ Bob