OVERTON, Texas (KETK) – Friends and community members at the McMillan Memorial Library gathered for a presentation and luncheon to educate and discuss the tragic events of March 18, 1937.
On that day, an explosion happened at the New London School in Rusk County, killing 298 students and teachers.
It is known as the worst school disaster in the United States, according to the Texas State Historical Association.
“I graduated from West Rusk and so that is the new name for New London School,” said Branch Manager McMillan Memorial Library, Jennifer Bender.
It has been 85 years since the building was destroyed in an explosion set off in a natural gas leak.
Jimmy Piercy, President of the New London Museum, said that remembering the tragic event is vital to the community.
“My folks lived there and my dad worked for an oil company,” said Piercy. “So it’s part of my childhood, but it is also the people. I knew many of the people that lost children.”
At the luncheon, Book Talk members got to view a documentary of people sharing their stories. As a guest speaker, Piercy shared her knowledge from that fateful day.
“My grandfather and father were both rescuers that night. So, not only my only family but families that I knew and children that I played with. They had all lost siblings that they didn’t even know”, said Piercy.
Since the explosion, chemicals have been added to natural gas to create the rotten smell that’s known today.
“We do a monthly program called Book Talk where we ask local authors to come in and talk about their book. So, we asked Jimmie Piercy from the New London Museum to be our topic for the month of March,” said Bender.
From historical fiction to reference books, the McMillan Memorial has literature to educate on the explosion that impacted East Texas.
“I highly recommend anyone to come out to New London and to go through the museum. It’s just such a great museum that is so rich with local history,” said Bender. A day that the town of New London and East Texas will never forget.
On March 19, relatives of those who have passed on will hold a reunion at West Rusk High School to honor those lost in the tragedy.