Barack Obama
Obama standing with his arms folded and smiling
44th President of the United States
In office January 20, 2009 – January 20, 2017
Vice President Joe Biden
Preceded by George W. Bush
Succeeded by Donald Trump
United States Senator from Illinois
In office January 3, 2005 – November 16, 2008
Preceded by Peter Fitzgerald
Succeeded by Roland Burris
Member of the Illinois Senate from the 13th district
In office January 8, 1997 – November 4, 2004
Preceded by Alice Palmer
Succeeded by Kwame Raoul
Personal details
Born Barack Hussein Obama II(1961-08-04) August 4, 1961 (age 55)Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Michelle Robinson (m. 1992)
  • Malia
  • Sasha
Relatives See Family of Barack Obama
Awards Nobel Peace Prize (2009)Profile in Courage Award (2017)


Amtrak Debacle
On June 09. 2014, my mother, Rosemary Rivera and myself departed for Seattle, Wa. We were going to Philadelphia to celebrate her sister’s 80th birthday and she had not been home in seven years, since she moved to Seattle, Wa. We were `heading to the King St. station to board Amtrak train #8 to Chicago. We were originally supposed to leave at 4:40 pm but back in May, I received an e-mail stating that the departure time had been changed to 1:40pm but the arrival time for Chicago had not changed. I called Amtrak and the agent said because of constant delays on this line they had decided to leave three hours early so they could get into Chicago on time.
We left Seattle on time with the expectations of arriving in Chicago on schedule. Our destination was Philadelphia and we had two more trains/connections to make. We had a two hour and forty minute layover in Chicago for our Pittsburgh train. In Pittsburgh we had another two hour and forty minute layover before departing for Philadelphia.
We were in a sleeping car and the beginning of the trip was going smoothly but by the time we reached Montana things started to change. There were many freight trains on the rails and they took priority. Most of the time we sat, sometimes for hours, waiting for the trains to finish using the rails or move ahead of us. We were seldom, if ever given the right of way and allowed to pass the freight trains. My understanding, according to other passengers, the freight train companies owned the rails and Amtrak paid them to use them. This gave the freight trains right-of-way all the time and we, the people had to wait.
Needless to say, we were due into Chicago at 3:55 pm and we finally pulled in at 10p.m. We were directed to go to Passenger service to get vouchers, new train schedules, whatever was needed to rectify our problems. Many people had missed their connections and were being put up at hotels, motels, etc.
When I presented my tickets to the woman at the passenger services desk she took one glance at it and stated that they would not honor my ticket because I chose not to follow the route they gave me online to get to Philadelphia from Seattle. I was told I was a no show for my trip to Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and I forfeited all monies paid. I tried to explain to her that I had not wanted to travel all through California and come back up and around to get to Philadelphia, so I found a quicker and less taxing route for my 78 yr. old mother.
She then proceeded to tell me I deviously, yes she used the word deviously, planned the trip to get around Amtrak’s route and she was not going to put us up in a hotel or put us on another train the following day. I explained to her that my mother and I did not know anyone in Chicago and would be stranded there overnight. She repeated that Amtrak does not guarantee assistance in any way when a customer does not follow their planned routes of travel.
I left the office dumbfounded, having never been treated like this by anyone in customer service. I went to the ticket line to see if we could buy tickets to get to Philadelphia since she said we had forfeited our money and we had no way to get home. The ticket agent was very polite and helpful. He said the train we missed today was sold out for the next day but he did find us a straight through train leaving the next day at 5:40pm. He said he was putting the ticket on hold instead of having us pay for it right then. He told me I needed to call customer relations in the morning because they could probably help with the problem. He said once I called them come back to the ticket line and they could handle it from there. I asked if I could call in the morning to see if there were any cancellations on the trains we had missed and if that didn’t work, see if any sleepers had come available on the train he had the ticket hold on. We really needed a sleeper on that train due to my mother being 78 yrs. old, I have degenerative nerve and disc damage in my neck and spine including asthma and being a Whipple survivor. I am also a type 1 diabetic on insulin and an inhaler.
He informed me that yes I could call to check for cancellations. But to make sure I called customer relations in the morning. I thanked him and asked if he knew of any hotels in the area we could stay at and he did recommend two.
I went back into the passenger service office for information on hotels as recommended by the ticket agent. I approached the same woman and asked her if she knew of any places to stay and she said no. Then another woman came from the back and asked her if she had given me the list to check and she reached under her desk and handed me a sheet of paper with a list of places to stay on it. She then decided to tell me that she believed there was a convention in town and she believed all rooms were booked.
Meanwhile, she did not tell me what hotel she had sent the passengers that had missed their connecting trains to. I happen to overhear her tell the woman in front of me the name of the hotel she was sending her to when I first came into the office.
I walked out of the office and sat down and started calling every place on the list. Every place was sold out or was charging $399.00 and up for one night. We could not afford to pay that kind of money. While I am not able to find a place my mother and I are getting resigned to the fact that we may have to sit in the train station all night, when we are informed by the Police and a lady who was on our train and also got stranded (because she stated the voucher Amtrak gave her did not pay the full amount for the hotel and she did not have the money to pay the difference), that the train station closes at 12:40 and we would have to leave.
I went back into the office and explained the entire situation to this woman again and included the fact that the station would be closing and we had nowhere to go and the hotels were all sold out. This time she said, “Well, I’m going home.” She and another woman walked out of the office, locked the door and didn’t look back, leaving me and my mother standing in the middle of the station and I am about to cry. My mother is looking so tired and distraught. It’s bad enough she has just spent fifty-four hours on a train, now she is being left in the middle of no man’s land as far as she is concerned and I am devastated because I can think of nothing to do to help us.
A police officer walks up to my mother while I am back on the phone trying to find us somewhere to go. She explains to him what is going on and he tells her to stay right there, he will be right back, he’s going to talk to his supervisor. When he comes back he tells us to get our bags and follow him. He takes us to the Amtrak sleeping car passengers lounge and tells us we can stay in there for the night but he will be back at 5am and we will have to leave, that’s when the station reopens. We thanked him profusely, and went inside with our bags. I watched my mother sit down slowly, exhale loudly, place her feet up on her suitcase, and promptly tucked her arms under her breast and quickly fall asleep. SHE WAS BEYOND EXHAUSTION.
I did not sleep, I sat up watching her and being aware of my surroundings, the cleaning people were in and out. At 5am the officer returns and tells us we have to leave. We thank him again and go and find a seat outside in the station.
At 7am I call Amtrak hoping for a cancellation, since I have to wait until 9am to call customer relations. There are two cancellations for the train we missed yesterday. I hang up and go to the ticket line. An agent named Maryanne B. is on duty and she is an angel and a Godsend all wrapped up in one. She goes far and beyond her duties as a ticket agent to help rectify what has happened to my mother and I. After hearing my story, checking my reservations, asking me questions in detail about what happened, she fixes the problem with patience and determination!! My mother didn’t have to spend any more money and she got us on those trains we had missed. She apologized profusely and said no one 78 years old should have to go through what she went through and no one with my health problems, right down to having been on life support just two years ago should be traumatized like we were.
My mother and I still had to sit in the train station all night and all day, we had been here since 10 pm Wednesday night and there was absolutely no excuse for Amtrak having treated us in such a shameful and uncaring manner. We were not even offered something to eat, we were given no place to stay, I was told our tickets were useless and money just thrown away, by an employee of Amtrak. There was no compassion shown, no respect, no courtesy. I was accused of being devious and pretty much slapped in the face for being determined to find the easiest way for my mother to travel to be with her sister on her 80th birthday. It was shameful and Amtrak should be ashamed for treating another human being in such a manner. We all have mothers and loved ones we care deeply for and would not tolerate them being treated in such a manner. My mother is near and dear to my heart and this is why I am writing this letter. People need to know what happened to us and that it could have and should have not happened to us or anyone else!!
On our return trip home we were scheduled to leave Philadelphia at 12:42pm on Tuesday, June 17th and arrive in Pittsburgh at 8:05pm on Tuesday, June 17th. We were scheduled to depart Pittsburgh for Chicago at 11:59pm. On Tuesday, June 17th. We did not leave Pittsburgh until approximately 2a.m. on Wednesday, June 18th. We were due in Chicago at 8:45am Wednesday, June 18th. Our train from Chicago to Seattle was to leave at 2:15pm the afternoon of June 18th. So there was approximately five and a half hours of layover time in Chicago once we arrived. Total time to make Seattle train including layover was 14 hours. We did not arrive in Chicago until 12:35 pm. Wed. June 18th. We were five and a half hours late getting into Chicago. Then we did not leave Chicago until approximately 3:30pm due to the train crew needing to have at least eight hours rest by law according to Amtrak so we had to wait until their rest period was complete. It is scary to think the crew did not have proper rest and meal times. It was quite obvious that they were extremely tired. But they were still courteous and did their jobs well and efficiently. Joseph was our attendant and he was magnificent!!
We finally arrived in Seattle at approximately 7:30pm. Our train was scheduled to arrive at 11:55am. My mother and I have never experienced such awful treatment. We were so thoroughly exhausted by the time we arrived home. In talking to passengers on the train I was told that the oil companies pay Amtrak fines for every time a train is delayed because the oil companies own the rails. It seems that Amtrak is okay with treating their customers in such a shoddy way. Obviously, money is far more important than we, the consumers who keep them in business or is it the oil companies making them richer by the second. I guess we do not matter!!
Approximately a week ago, I received in the mail, a voucher for three hundred dollars from Amtrak. I had not sent this letter yet. But I voiced my disapproval of our treatment to anyone, including Amtrak employees that would listen to me during our entire trip. I am not ungrateful, but extremely disappointed that Amtrak felt that three hundred dollars would be fair compensation for my mother and I for how we were treated.
I am not a healthy woman and did experience an asthma attack the night we were stranded in Chicago on our way to Philadelphia. I am also a type 1 diabetic and my glucose level dropped dangerously low due to the stress we were experiencing. If my mother and I had not been properly equipped with my medication, I would have had to go to the hospital. Not being offered any food would also have been detrimental. Being a diabetic, I must eat regularly or I can become very ill. I compensated with candy I always carry in my bag for emergencies. A three hundred dollar voucher feels like a slap in the face! Amtrak should be ashamed, considering what we spent on tickets for our trip! Given the equal compensation (in vouchers) of the cost of our trip would be fair!


Ms. Glenda R. McPherson

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