Thursday, March 18, 1937: New London

Down through time humans have paid special tribute to those who died.  There are various rituals associated with the grave of someone special.

One of the markers used to commemorate a place of special significance is a cenotaph.  Cenotaph is derived from the Greek words kenos (empty) and taphos (tomb).
Photo courtesy of A granite memorial to the victims of the London School explosion was erected in the middle of Texas Highway 42 in New London, Texas,
between the rebuilt school and a museum. Texarkana Gazette

One of the saddest cenotaphs is in New London, Texas, designed by Donald S. Nelson.  New London is about 85 miles west of Shreveport, Louisiana and about 130 miles east of Dallas.

March 18 dawned like any other day in this Texas oil town.  Parents rushed about to get the children and teenagers off to school.

Unknown to these parents that early Spring morning was that before nightfall they would suffer a tragic loss of children, nephews, nieces, cousins, friends and church members.  Their grief would be a burden which they would carry to their graves.

An electrical spark around 3 pm would cause a natural gas explosion which would destroy the lives of 293 students, teachers and visitors.  In an instant young and old were hurled into the cosmic ocean from whence there can be no return to life on earth.

One cannot imagine the horror which fell on this East Texas community unless one has experienced such a horrific tragedy.  The loss of so many precious lives in a single school is unfathomable.

Tragedies both natural and human-made transpire daily on this planet traversing the cosmos.  One can only be so prepared for catastrophic events on the road of life.

However, one can live life to the fullest.  Love those to whom you are close.  Appreciate friends and colleagues. Help a stranger along the way.

For a young reporter from the UPI Office in Dallas, the visit to New London that afternoon would have a profound impact on his life and career.  As he reflected back on this tragedy years later, he said,

“I did nothing in my studies nor in my life to prepare me for a story of the magnitude of that New London tragedy, nor has any story since that awful day equaled it.”

The reporter was Walter Cronkite.  He would carry this experience with him always.  It helped shaped the reporter that he became. One life touched by the cruel vicissitudes of fate can leave a legacy to this world.

3:08 pm Thursday, March 18, 1937 is a moment frozen in time. 293 lives lost and many more lives scarred, damaged and broken by tragedy.


G. D. Williams       © 2012