A Tale of Tragedy

By: Kate Tillotson
By: Kate Tillotson

January 6, 2006
We’ve seen it all on tape, the sights and sounds of that tragic day in Graniteville. But tonight, we hear from one woman whose story of survival ended up in print. She not only survived the chlorine spill, but also became a national headline herself after writing a book about it.

“The roots of the Graniteville Mills sink deep into the blue stone beneath the region’s sandy soil,” the book reads.

It’s a story that doesn’t start with once upon a time, but rather “Day 1, January 6, 2005.”

“I was sleeping with my windows open that night and I heard the clatter. I didn’t hear the trains toppling, the cars toppling, but I heard the initial crash,” said Nina Nidiffer, author.

Nina Nidiffer not only heard the wreck but she was among the first to document it, risking her own health by taking the photo now featured on the cover of her book “Un-Natural Disaster.”

“When I first took the picture, I was elated because I’m a reporter at heart. I was excited about getting a shot that nobody else had,” Nidiffer said.

And it’s that energy she ran with after being approached by Harbor House. The Augusta publisher asked her to write the book based on facts she collected through lengthy and often times emotional interviews.

“Until you’ve been in a situation like that, like Nina was, you really don’t know what you would do so we knew the best way to tell the story of the people who’d been through it was through the eyes of someone who also had been through it,” said Renee Conaway, Harbor House.

“They sang, they worshipped, they hugged each other,” the book reads.

So one year later, Nina reflects on the near two hundred pages, the break down of two weeks in Graniteville she’ll never write off entirely.

“The cars collided nose to nose at 41 miles per hour. Fourteen rail cars tumbled from the tracks sending metal parts and cargo flying,” the book reads.

Images that led to both loss and survival, but according to one character it was an experience that bred strength to a small town suffering.

“Every day was a gift, she understood that now better than she ever had before. In everything, find the blessing she thought. She would remember it herself now, she hoped Graniteville would try to do the same,” the book reads.

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