TYLER, TX (KLTV) - This weekend marks the anniversary of one of the most shattering tragedies to ever happen in Texas, or in the country.
On March 18th 1937, the New London school exploded from a gas leak. In all, 293 victims were accounted for, but the real number may never be known.
Today, only a handful of survivors remain.
At a West Rusk school, old faces greeted one another as family and friends and two survivors of the the New London school explosion returned to remember their lost classmates.
“You got to understand the explosion is not in any textbook. Few people know about it,” said Miles Toler, the president of the New London Ex-students Association.
At exactly 3:17 p.m., a massive explosion tore the school apart.
For some families on that March day, in a split second, whole generations were wiped out.
Ninety-three-year-old Odis Bryan was an 11-year-old fifth grader sitting in class waiting for the bell to ring.
“I was in that south wing, second floor. They don’t realize how bad it was. It was a sad day,” he said.
A spark from a shop sander ignited a vast pool of natural gas that had collected beneath the school building.
The huge blast leveled the structure.
“I tried everything I could to forget it. I just don’t talk about it, I didn’t talk about it for 50 years,” Bryan said.
Bryan says everything just went black from the debris swirling in the air.
“Everybody is done gone but me. All my friends, the ones that survived it are gone too,” Bryan said.
As the names of those lost were read, there was sadness, but also joy in remembering how they lived.
“There’s no dry eyes in the crowd. especially when someone says, ‘Oh that’s my father-in-laws’ son.' It’s celebrating that they are not forgotten,” Toler said.
Anniversary organizers say through records, they estimate a little more than 50 survivors remain. Many had moved on to other states.
The memorial for the New London tragedy is held every two years.