Hammond, Indiana, a working-class suburb of 77,000, is essentially a parking lot and waiting area for Norfolk Southern trains. Sometimes these trains, many of them quite long, are parked for hours or days, and no one ever knows when they’ll start moving again. These trains disrupt and endanger the lives of all the people who live in Hammond, especially children, who end up crawling through or underneath trains in order to get to school.

The problem of stalled trains and blocked crossings has existed for decades, but as ProPublica and InvestigateTV report in this investigation — with shocking video and photography — it’s gotten worse.

Lamira Samson, Jeremiah’s mother, faced a choice she said she has to make several times a week. They could walk around the train, perhaps a mile out of the way; she could keep her 8-year-old son home, as she sometimes does; or they could try to climb over the train, risking severe injury or death, to reach Hess Elementary School four blocks away.

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.