Nine years after a deadly train wreck claimed the lives of nine people in Graniteville, Bethlehem Baptist Church is ready to celebrate recovery.
Today, the church will hold its ninth annual Train Derailment Memorial Program to honor victims of the 2005 wreck.
The program’s theme is “celebrating recovery,” the Rev. James Abraham said.
“What we set out to do with the program is to help out with the healing process for those who have lost loved ones,” he said. “This year, it’s taking somewhat of a twist in that we’re moving to a concert-style program. We feel that we are at the point now where we can celebrate recovery.”
In the early hours of Jan. 6, 2005, a northbound Norfolk Southern Railway Co. freight train struck a parked train after it was accidently diverted from the main line and onto an industry track, according to a National Transportation Safety Board accident report.
The crash caused a tank car containing chlorine to leak, and the train engineer and eight other people died as a result of chlorine gas inhalation.
According to the report, more than 5,400 people within a mile
of the derailment site were evacuated from their homes for several days.
About two years ago, the church considered halting the program, fearing it would only open old wounds, Abraham said. The
families of the victims protested.
“The families begged us not to stop,” he said. “They shared with us that it was helping with the healing process.”
The event will feature Aiken County Council Chairman Ronnie Young as the keynote speaker.
More than five musical acts will perform in what Abraham called “an inspirational style of music.” Abraham, who will perform with the Dynamic Abraham Brothers, said he helped to write the song Celebrating Recovery for the event.
“This is a way for the community to come out and bond together,” Abraham said.