New London, TX School Explosion, Mar 1937
Mothers Still Hope
That's the way they recovered bodies today. Mothers, hollow-eyed, stood in the cold rain, hoping their missing son or daughter, listed among the living, might still live. But they knew there was little chance. Among the tired workers were men who might at any moment roll aside a stone and look upon the crushed body of their own child.
"How many more in there?"
The tired 'boss' of a gang of volunteers leaned against a fragment of the school wall. Water ran off the brim of his hat. His clothes were sodden.
'God Only Knows.'
"God only knows," he continued. "We won't know until we get down to the clay. I mean, there's a possibility of finding bodies any place."
The rain made the rescue work harder and the crane engineer cursed the luck of the weather. He said it made the cables slip. It also made the footing insecure and threatened to mire the dump trucks that continually carted away the debris. But the men worked all the harder for the new difficulty, and there were plenty of volunteers. When a man dropped out for coffee and a cigaret[sic] another took his place.
Inspector Says Only Gas Could Have Been Cause
OVERTON, March 19 (U.P.) -- "Nothing but gas could have caused the New London School explosion," MORTIMER JONES, city gas inspector at Fort Worth, said here today after a brief examination of the blast scene.
"In the first place," said JONES, "there is no explosive but gas that could have wrecked the entire building with one blast. In the second place, only gas has the spread and the area to be capable of lifting the roof from the building. Other explosives act much differently."
"The gas must have been in the basement, seeping upward through the hollow tile walls," Jones pointed out.
Sheer Horror Unparalleled
NEW LONDON, March 19 (U.P.) -- W. M. RAWLES of Tyler, oil company engineer, said today he "went through the San Francisco earthquake and fire but I saw nothing there to compare with this school explosion for sheer horror."
He said he was driving past the New London school yesterday afternoon the moment it blew up, smashing more than 425 children and teachers to death.
"I saw men faint at the sight of those mangled, helpless children screaming for aid," he said. "It is too appalling to try to talk about it much. I did what I could to help, until the rescue work was progressed then I got out of there."
GEORGE A. HARDY, 63, of Arp, dropped dead of heart disease induced by shock after assisting in the rescue work an hour.
IRA JOE MOORE, 15, tenth grade pupil in the school was one of 300 students in the east wing of the building who escaped. IRA JOE, a member of the school band, which included 45 members, sat dazed in an automobile parked behind the school building for hours after the explosion.
"The band is gone," he said. "More than half of the members were killed. I tried to help in the rescue work for a while and I found three of the fellows dead."
"It doesn't seem real. We had worked so hard to get together a good band."
Boy and Girl Are Taken From Ruins Alive, Hysterical
NEW LONDON, March 19 (AP) - Clasped in each others arms, a boy and girl were found alive early today in the ruins of the blast shattered $1,000,000 London consolidated school. The explosion, which killed more than 300 children formed a crude arch of falling debris which sheltered the two.
Hysterical and sobbing, they were carried through the throng hastily and their names were not learned. They were of junior high school age.
Meeting of Happy Mothers Is Turned Into Scene of Horror
By J. LAWRENCE DEAN
Editor of The Henderson News
(Copyright 1937, United Press)
HENDERSON, March 19 (U.P.) -- A group of happy mothers gathered in the spacious auditorium of the New London consolidated school late yesterday for the regular meeting of the Parent-Teacher Association of one of the largest rural schools in the world.
Outside a warm spring sun shone brightly and except for intermittent rumble of activity in the encircling oil fields the piney East Texas country side was quiet.
While the mothers were discussing the future of their children, and listening to suggestions by the teachers, pupils in the lower grades were gathering up their books and starting the scramble for the playground or to go home. The clock at the big study hall showed 3 P. M.
Bricks Sailed High
Suddenly, bricks sailed high into the air. Then as the debris seemed to hang momentarily above what had been a solid trim structure of brick and steel a big mushroom of smoke of grayish brown hue rose upward. A deafening explosion followed. The earth seemed to tremble as if wrecked by an earthquake.
The disaster overtook the smaller children as they started to file from their classrooms. It catapulted upward the bodies of scores trapped within what was the building but now was a shattered mass of masonry and steel with but one wall standing.
This was the picture of the worst tragedy ever to befall a school community in history as given me by witnesses, some of them mothers whose children were counted among the mangled victims.
Continued on page 4