A 9-year-old St. Paul boy who suffered a life-altering injury was remarkably able to pull himself to safety after a passing train severed both of his feet, and he shared his story with the FOX 9 Investigators.
Marshawn Robinson's smile is quick and determined, much like his will, according to his adoptive mother.
"He had the will to live," Kim Farr told FOX 9.
Whether survival comes from strength of body or depth of soul matters less than the fact that it came when he needed to travel 165 feet in a way he'd never needed to before.
"I don't think an ordinary kid could have done this, but that is what we have angels for, isn't it?" Farr asked.
The train tracks near Robinson's home were once an unsanctioned neighborhood playground, hidden from the prying eyes of parents by trees and brush. The kids would throw rocks at the passing trains, but Robinson's life changed when he tried to hop on a lumbering freight car.
"Hey, I'm a kid," he told FOX 9 News. "I thought it would be fun."
Robinson admitted the parents in the neighborhood didn't know their children frequently played by the tracks until his accident.
"When my feet got cut off, then we told," he said.
It's not clear whether Robinson fell or got his feet caught under the evening train that lumbers along the line, but he clearly remembers how he felt.
"Dizzy and cold and different," he explained.
He didn't even know he had lost his feet until he got up and then looked down.
"I sat down quick," Robinson recalled. "Then, I said I didn't want to die."
He knew the closest house was on the corner, so that's where he headed.
"I would die if it took too long," he knew.
Robinson went through the woods rather than turn back along the path he came from, pulling himself along on his stomach.
"That's awfully good thinking for a 9-year-old who is so badly hurt," Farr said.
The shortest route out was not the easiest. He crawled over rocks, rusted railroad nails, refuse and rugged brush.
"He had to be pulling pretty hard to come out of his shorts," Farr told FOX 9. "He was literally out of his pants."
In total, Robinson crawled 165 feet, making it halfway into the yard of that corner of the house. A stick has been planted to mark the spot where he reached help, asking someone who ran to his aid to carry him home.
"It tells me a lot, tells me a whole lot," Farr said. "You know, you raise these kids and you go through these things -- but to see a child say, 'I got to get to you' -- he could have said anything else. It means a lot to me."
Farr has been the mother to Marshawn Robinson and his twin sisters for six of his nine years, taking them in after their mother lost her right to care for them. She also cares for two other children.
"My cousin -- his biological mom was going through some changes," Farr explained.
Honestly, she has hesitated to adopt the trio since they were, as she calls it, "up in age." Robinson was 3, but the twins were just six weeks old. Yet, her brother -- former New York Giant Stacy Robinson, said if she loved the kids, she should do it. He also promised he'd have her back if things got hard. A few years later, he died of cancer.
"Overwhelming, but we get it done," Farr admitted. "Now this has happened, and he does have a lot of needs."
Some individual donations have been made -- including gift cards to McDonalds, Old Country Buffett -- and a friend also got local businesses to contribute to help the family with a $500 food donation to put inside a new refrigerator donated by Warner Stellian. The Warner family also donated a washer and dryer, a stove and two air conditioners to the family.
It's been a lot for a woman with pride and dignity to accept, but it's a windfall none the less because Farr cannot work. Caring for Robinson takes all of her time and energy because his struggle is now hers as well.
While Robinson told FOX 9 News not walking and playing is the hardest part for him, just getting upstairs to the family's only television to pass the hours is hard work.
"Hard, but I have a 9-year-old child that can crawl out of the woods to get to me. I'm going to be there for him, and I have to show him that I have the strength too," Farr said.
Farr admits she has been tempted to use her strength to go down to the tracks and cut down the trees and brush that block them herself.
"They say it's for the noise, but I'd rather be able to see what's going on," she said.
The tracks slice through the neighborhood in a way that leaves most people going blocks out of their way if they don't want to across them on the well-worn footpaths. There is one "no trespassing" sign that shows a crossed out picture of a man crossing the tracks along the stretch.
"It doesn't mean 'don't play down here. Don't cross over the tracks,'" Farr said.
In a wooded area farther down the tracks, there's even a clubhouse where the children played -- complete with disregarded furniture. The only sign nearby is a traffic sign.
"It didn't say 'no trespass,'" Robinson told FOX 9 News. "It said that way for cars."
Michael Bryant is an attorney who has studied railroad injury cases, and he sees that signage "simply is not" adequate.
"We know there are kids there. They knew the kids were there. When you go through a community with something that big, they have a responsibility to make sure people are safe as they go through," Bryant said.
BNSF owns the tracks, and they claim they post no trespass signs where there are obvious signs of a problem. Yet, the FOX 9 Investigators spotted several well-traveled paths unmarked by signs.
A spokesman told FOX 9 it would be "impossible" to post along the entire railway, but BNSF said it is patrolling the stretch where Robinson was injured more often since he lost his feet. Furthermore, the company says it also sponsors hundreds of Operation Lifesaver programs to teach people to be careful around the tracks -- some in grade schools.
Robinson came home nine days after his injury, and his recovery has gone well so far. He is, at times, so buoyant it is easy to forget the very long road that lies ahead of him; however, there certainly are reminders that come in the form of spasms of pain, sensations where the bottom of his feet once were and an urge to wiggle his big toes.
"It feels like I can move them, but I don't want to try because, well -- my feet is not there," Robinson said.
The rumbling trains that continue to travel the tracks are another reminder, one Robinson tries to push from his mind.
"I ignore it," he said. "I think I hear a plane."
To help Robinson and his family, click here: http://www.visi.com/~homsales/rbott_pg183.htm