80 years ago, school blast killed hun­dreds

Gas leak blamed for tragedy at East Texas’ New Lon­don School.

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE - Au­gusta Robin­son Tyler Morn­ing Tele­graph His­tory

Otis Bryan was filling an inkwell on March 18, 1937, when sud­denly the fifth-grader’s art class in his school in the East Texas town of New Lon­don was shaken and in­vaded by a dark cloud of smoke.

Although Bryan said he didn’t hear any­thing or un­der­stand what was hap­pen­ing, he started run­ning and was able to exit from the back of the school down a stair­case.

He re­calls run­ning about one mile to get home, where he no­ticed he was bleed­ing and had small pieces of de­bris in his skin.

A steady stream of am­bu­lances and first re­spon­ders passed by his home, Bryan told the Tyler Morn­ing Tele­graph.

“Ev­ery­one was hol­ler­ing, ‘The New Lon­don School blew up,’ ” said Bryan, now 91 and liv­ing in the nearby town of Over­ton, a lit­tle more than 120 miles south- east of Dal­las.

Satur­day was the 80th an­niver­sary of the tragedy.

At 3:17 p.m. that day, Lem­mie But­ler, an in­struc­tor of man­ual train­ing, turned on a sand­ing ma­chine in an area that he didn’t know was filled with a gas, ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion pro­vided on the New Lon­don Mu­seum’s web­site.

The switch is thought to have ig­nited the mix­ture of gas and air and car­ried a flame un­der the build­ing, seem­ingly lift­ing the build­ing into the air and smash­ing it back to the ground.

News of the ex­plo­sion trav­eled quickly, and res­i­dents of the com­mu­nity, oil field work­ers, the Texas Rangers, high­way pa­trol of­fi­cers and oth­ers dug through the rub­ble look­ing for vic­tims, ac­cord­ing to the mu­seum.

Of the 500 stu­dents and 40

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.