Updated 07/26/2012 06:41 AM
Town remembers oil tanker explosion 50 years later
Berlin honored those who died 50 years ago after an oil tanker accident in their town. Wednesday night, the community held a memorial at the First Baptist Church. Our Erin Vannella reports.
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BERLIN, N.Y. -- "It was a warm, sunny, beautiful afternoon," said Berlin Town Historian Sharon Klein. "And sometime after 5:00, it suddenly changed."
Klein remembers when an oil tanker crashed into a tree on Plank Road. It's been 50 years and the community can't forget it.
"There was one death that evening, well two," said Klein, "and they went on until 29th of August. So at least once a week, if not twice, you were going to a wake or funeral and you couldn't get it out of your mind."
Nine people died in total from the fire that exploded out of the truck. Eleven homes were leveled along with the First Baptist Church on North Main Street.
"I've known many of the people who had to rebuild their lives and lost loved ones who walked away with burns and their lives were changed forever," said Grafton resident Christina Schillinger.
"My very best friend lost both her parents," said Klein. "Another friend lost her mom, her dad, her aunt and her uncle and they lived up behind the church here."
Since then, structures have been replaced around town and the church too, thanks to community efforts. Tragedy has a way of bringing out the best in people, if not to help themselves, than to carry on the spirit of those left behind.
"I have seen that people really pull together like to rebuild this church," said Schillinger.
"You know, we have recovered but we'll never forget," said Klein. "If you were here that day you'll know just what you were doing. You just don't forget it."