Graniteville crash remembered

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The second anniversary of the Graniteville train disaster will be remembered much like the first - by a candlelight vigil, prayers and a public ceremony at the place where residents were decontaminated.

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A contract worker for Norfolk Southern wore a protective suit to  examine a demolished freight train at the 2005 crash site.  File/environmental protection agency
File/environmental protection agency
A contract worker for Norfolk Southern wore a protective suit to examine a demolished freight train at the 2005 crash site.

Several local and state officials have been invited to the ceremony, which is scheduled for Saturday.

Last year's anniversary drew hundreds of people to the two events - the vigil before dawn and the ceremony later in the day at the University of South Carolina Aiken, organizers said.

"This year we hope to get as many or more, but people tend to forget as time goes on," said Louisiana Wright, the executive director of the Graniteville Community Coalition.

Nine people died, hundreds were injured and 5,400 were forced to flee their homes Jan. 6, 2005, when two Norfolk Southern trains crashed in Graniteville in the middle of the night.

One of the trains was carrying a load of chlorine, and the crash ruptured the tanker and sent a deadly gas plume drifting through the town.

Graniteville still is reeling from the effects. Its primary industry, Avondale Mills, blamed the chlorine spill for its being forced to close down and lay off hundreds of workers.

Residents still are suffering from health effects from the chlorine, and lawsuits against Norfolk Southern are outstanding.

It's important to commemorate the second anniversary because of that, Ms. Wright said.

"We're going to be doing the same thing as last year, but we're going to be doing something different," she said of the ceremonies.

While 2006's event at the University of South Carolina Aiken focused on emergency workers and state officials who responded to the disaster and helped pave the way for cleanup and recovery, Ms. Wright said this year's ceremony will include testimony from victims.

Those still suffering from the aftereffects of the train wreck will be invited to speak at the ceremony, she said.

"(That's) keeping the plight of those victims in the forefront, because people are still having problems," Ms. Wright said.

Also included in the festivities will be gospel music and a tribute to all the victims, Ms. Wright said.

She said organizers also have asked that emergency medical workers sent by the state Department of Health and Environmental Control attend so they can be thanked for their efforts.

Reach Sandi Martin at (803) 648-1395, ext. 111, or sandi.martin@augustachronicle.com.

Remembrance on track

A candlelight vigil will be held at 6 a.m. Saturday at the site of the 2005 train wreck in Graniteville, and another commemorative event will be at the University of South Carolina Aiken, which was a decontamination site, at 11 a.m. For more information, call the Rev. James Abraham at (803) 613-9306 or Louisiana Wright at (803) 221-6976.


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