Graniteville remembers train wreck victims with monument

(Graniteville) May 21, 2006 - Out of the hundreds that showed up Saturday at the unveiling a monument in Graniteville, almost everyone who attended says their lives were forever changed on January 6, 2005.

"It was just such a disheartening thing because, you know, being a small community everybody is close. Everybody knows everybody," says Graniteville resident Joel Randall.

Almost a year and half ago, in the early morning hours, a train crashed into another train parked in the heart of town, causing several cars to leak chlorine.

Nine people died from the chemical spill, while hundreds were injured and thousands evacuated.

On Saturday, a monument was unveiled at the crash site, bearing the names of victims like Allen Frazier.

Frazier was the brother of Lillian Miles. Miles say this monument is helping her remember her brother.

"My brother was so much more than just a brother ... he was a friend, a father figure. It's been hard, but we're adjusting. Each day it's getting better," Miles says.

The monument consists of three parts. The first stone describes the accident, in which a ruptured chlorine tanker released a toxic cloud over the mill town.

The middle stone is black and has an engraved picture of a firefighter carrying a rescued child in his arms.

The final stone lists the names of the nine who lost their lives. Fire Chief Phil Napier says the $30,000 memorial was paid for by agencies, businesses and volunteers.

Rusty Rushton's name is also on the monument. His ex-wife Kathy says the monument honors Rushton's life.

"Too much is being focused on how he died and not on how he lived. [And] that's what I'm trying to impress on the kids now. There was 41 years of life before his tragic death," says Kathy.

Residents say the monument not only honors the lives of the victims who died, but it also serves as a symbol of what was lost.

Louisiana Wright says the tragedy has shaken the security she felt in her hometown.

"When I grew up this train came through here everyday and you never even thought about it, and now every time I drive across that track, every time I drive across it, I think about what happened," says Wright.

Another reminder of a tragedy that shook this small community that will never be forgotten and that changed the lives of the people who lived here.

Reported by Tamara King

Updated 4:11pm by Graeme Moore