Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Day Texas Exploded

The Day Texas Exploded
By Judy Vandiver

Tomorrow marks the 63rd anniversary of a tragic event. 

It was a picturesque morning with promises of a beautiful spring.  The sun rose above the horizon across the bay tickling the water with wavy shimmers.  The seaside community was beginning their work day in chemical plants, the docks and small business scattered throughout the growing boomtown, grateful for work.   Fathers had left home a few hours earlier carrying their lunch pails.   Mothers kissed their children goodbye and sent them off to school.   Children laughed as they skipped on their journey to their classes, stopping to enjoy the smell of the crisp salt air.   Everything was as it should be in Texas City, Texas.   Then Texas exploded.

It was April 16, 1947.  A ship was being loaded at the docks with ammonium nitrate.  There had been warning signs; signs that went unheeded.   The ammonium nitrate bags were hot to the touch, the bags were ripping and the ship’s hold they were being moved to sat close to ammunition that wasn’t unloaded when scheduled.  

Spontaneous combustion occurred in the ammonium nitrate bags and a fire broke out in the ship’s cargo area.  Attempts to douse the fire with drinking water were unsuccessful.  Within minutes the ship exploded, sending a mushroom shaped cloud skyward, blocking out the rays of the sun.  

Across the bay, Galveston residents watched as the sky grew increasingly darker.  The blast was heard as far away as 150 miles.  A seismologist in Colorado noted the vibrations on his instruments.  News of the explosion soon traveled around the world.  But the effects went much further.  The effects went deep into the souls that survived the raining hell.  

Over 500 died that morning on the Texas City shore.  Some were never identified.  For 63 years, family members have wondered what happened to their loved ones.  Remaining survivors are now in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.  Some carry scars on their bodies.  All carry scars on their hearts. 


This story has meaning to me because warning signs were ignored.  I think sometimes in our lives we dismiss signals that something is not as it should be.  We continue merrily along only to discover that our world has been blown apart.   We traverse into danger zones; we disregard God’s forewarning that something is hot; and we try to handle the consequences with inadequate fighting power.  The catastrophe may end, but the results stay with us forever.