Church Plans for Graniteville Anniversary

By: Domonique Benn
By: Domonique Benn

December 13, 2005
It’s a tragedy we will never forget. Nine people died following the Graniteville train derailment and chemical release. Almost one year later, hundreds of survivors still suffer from the chlorine they inhaled. News 12 was there when one church announced plans to mark the one-year anniversary of the Graniteville train disaster.

One year later the tears continue, it still hurts. Ask Bonnie Brown who lost her brother after the Graniteville train derailment.

“He had to come over the railroad track to get to the house and he got caught up in it,” Brown said.

Bonnie’s brother Leonard Mathis is shown here struggling to breathe. It would be four months of breathing treatments three times a week after that. Bonnie says it was the chlorine that ultimately killed her brother.

“When the train collided, it took my brother, my companion, my best friend, my babysitter cause he was everything for me,” Brown said.

After the train collision and then derailment, thousands were told to evacuate to the USC-Aiken decontamination site. Now one year later, Bethlehem Baptist Church is planning for the first year anniversary event.

“There will be a candlelight vigil to kick off the event starting at 6 o’clock that morning before the 11 o’clock one-year anniversary event,” said Louisiana Wright, Community Coalition.

Bethlehem Baptist Pastor James Abraham says pulling together for unity and strength will help in the healing process.

“I found that as the tragedy was going on found people began to rely on one another,” Abraham said.

“It’s a long process, but this gathering is a part of this process,” said Roland Smith, (R) SC State Representative.

And organizers of the event say the healing process continues by not forgetting Graniteville.

Local, state and federal dignitaries are invited to attend the event as well as the public. Again, the one-year anniversary event will be held January 6th starting at 6 a.m. at USC-Aiken, the decontamination site during the weeks of cleanup. It’s a chance for the Graniteville community to say thank you to all of the emergency personnel and agencies who responded during the disaster.

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