2011 marks 74 years since the New London disaster - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

2011 marks 74 years since the New London disaster

By Bob Hallmark - bio | email
Posted by Elizabeth Thomas – email

NEW LONDON, TX (KLTV) – It's a story that East Texans know well. On March 18, 1937, the New London School was rocked by a gas explosion that killed nearly 300 students and teachers.

It was 74 years ago at 3:17 pm, a leak from a natural gas pipe sparked an explosion that destroyed the New London School.

Visitor Charles Nunnally says, "I remember, I was in elementary school in Jacksonville back in the 60's our teachers telling us about the explosion in New London… This is something we've heard about, my generation, all of our lives."

John Davidson lost his sister in the explosion, "I had a 14-year-old sister who was killed in the school explosion named Ardith. I never got to see her."

A photograph of the girls softball team was taken two hours before the blast. Davidson's sister was in it.

It took years for investigators to determine what happened, but here's what we know. A crawl space under the school had filled with natural gas—64,000 cubic feet of it. A spark from the wood shop set it off, and in one second, the school was gone.

"There was a picture of an old shoe, and it was the only thing left to identify this little girl from the wreckage—heartbreaking," Davidson expressed.

It was a frantic scene, nearly 300 were dead, and sympathies came in from heads of state all over the world.

"The one that gets the most attention is the telegram from Adolf Hitler," says Davidson.

Every year, survivors come back to remember.

"To keep the memory of all these kids alive," Davidson explained.

Many of the families were transient oilfield workers, who took the remains of their children and never came back.

Davidson says, "The count we use up here that we have verified is 293, and it's probably more."

It will always be a part of us, never forgotten, for one moment in history. The world mourned for East Texas.

On Saturday morning, the New London Museum will hold a reunion for the students who survived the disaster. It starts at 10 am.

Copyright 2011 KLTV. All rights reserved.      

Powered by Frankly