I tend to agree with Bob Dylan when he says that passion is a young man's game. Young people can be passionate, but as a person gets older, they've got to be more wise than passionate. So, at my age, let's just say I've gotten wiser about some things and one of them is the New London School Explosion.
This incident, I'm sorry to say is still listed as the worst school disaster in American history. It took the lives of 294 people and sadly enough, could have been prevented. Read on for the full story and make it a point to visit the New London School Explosion website at www.newlondonschool.org.
March 18, 1937
The Day The Clock Stood Still
I have always been interested in true stories. Tell me the facts to a historical event and I'm yours for the duration. This disaster not only intrigues me, but tugs at my heart each time I think about it.
The New London School Explosion occurred at 3:17pm on March 18, 1937 in New London, Texas. Men, women and children died in that blast which originated in the basement of the school. Natural gas filled the basement undetected from a pipe believed to be exposed from a first floor auditorium. Through interviews with some of the survivors, we found that as children entered the auditorium, they would kick the pipe eventually causing it to crack and leak into the basement below. Another theory is that since the New London School tapped into and used waste gas from nearby oil wells for heating, pressure was not regulated properly which caused the pipes in the basement to leak. The explosion was later ignited by a spark from a person using an electric sander in shop class.
Almost all of the
Immediately after the explosion, everyone in the community rushed to the scene to try and help. School buses took the surviving children to their neighborhoods only to greet tearful mothers waiting, hoping to see if their child would step off the bus. Many didn't. Volunteers and workmen from the east Texas oil fields started digging through the rubble trying to find survivors. These men were also fathers and sadly, many found what they were looking for, the broken bodies of their children.
A temporary morgue was set up near the school as well as nearby Overton and Henderson. Many burials were made in the local Pleasant Hill cemetery that to this day, still symbolize the great loss that families endured. Many of the grave sites display porcelain pictures of the victims. Marbles that were once played with were pushed into the cement border outlining the graves. Epitaphs on the grave markers were etched with phrases trying to comfort as best they can.
It's estimated that 294 people died that day.
As March rolls around each year, I am again reminded of the horror, the suffering and the magnificent courage that was displayed.
It was the day a generation died. A day that whole families were changed forever. A day the clock stood still. For many years, survivors couldn't talk about it, the pain was too horrific. But now stories are being told and memories relived for the purpose of healing. This website page was created in memory of those who died on that fateful day...and for those who survived.
- Robert Hilliard