Min Perry managed to secure what typically is a golden opportunity on a crowded T train: an open seat, just behind the operator's cabin. The 37-year-old Wellesley resident settled in, propped her feet up against the partition, and opened a newspaper.
Perry, who has a job in Boston, was in for a long ride Wednesday. She boarded the T at Copley Square and intended to get off at the D train's last stop, Riverside.
The train rolled along for 12 stops without incident, but as the trolley approached its next stop, Woodland Station in Newton, Perry heard a woman gasp.
Then came a tremendous crash.
The trolley in which she was riding crashed into the back of another trolley that was just beginning to move forward. The impact threw Perry out of her seat and onto the floor, while her feet got wedged into the crumpled partition, keeping her inside the burning, smoke-filled train that also entrapped the operator, Terrese Edmonds, who died.
All the passengers fled except for a man in his 20s named Ben, who called 911 and stayed with her until firefighters arrived. She didn't catch Ben's last name.
In a telephone interview yesterday evening from her bed at Boston Medical Center, Perry said: "In the beginning, I was screaming because it hurt so much. Then my feet got numb and I was about to pass out. He kept saying, 'Stay with me, stay with me, stay with me.' "
To help her breathe, the man gave her a cotton shirt to cover her mouth.
"He was basically risking his own life," she said. "You had smoke and fire behind me."
It took firefighters about 20 minutes and several attempts to free her from the partition. They ultimately used a special excavation device to pry open the crumpled partition enough to pull her out.
"My sneakers were soaked with blood," she said. "I heard a firefighter say there was a lot of deformity. . . . I kept thinking my life would be changed."
In the end, Perry, the only injured passenger still hospitalized yesterday, had a painful broken ankle.
Perry said she considers herself lucky. If she had not propped her feet against the partition, she said, she would have been thrown head-first into the partition.
"It was a traumatic experience," she said. "It makes you think how fragile life can be."
Perry said she is unsure whether she will ride the T again.If she does, she said, she will probably sit somewhere in the middle.
James Vaznis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.