A commemorative event honoring the victims of the August 1955 tragic school bus, 140 car train wreck in Spring City is planned for Saturday, Aug. 21 at 11 a.m. at Spring City Elementary School.
The 50th anniversary event is planed to kick-off a year of remembrance for the 11 children killed in the tragedy, numerous others injured and their families.
The tragedy occurred on Aug. 22, 1955 as a school bus crossed the southern tracks at Highway 27 in Spring City delivering children to their homes after school. The wreck was witnessed by dozens of surrounding residents who raced to aid the victims. A number were trapped inside the bus and many were thrown as much as 100 yards from the site.
Within an hour esatimates of reporters and law enforcement were that 1,000 people had rushed to the scene to offer aid.
Ambulances from Spring City, Crossville, Rockwood and Harriman raced to the scene and many of those injured were transported to Chamberlain Memorial Hospital in Rockwood by private cars.
Spring City reporter the late Sybil Hardaway, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her graphic eyewitness account of the event. According to Mrs. Hardaway, blood donors raced to medical facilities to donate, including the entire Rockwood and Spring City High School football teams. Positive identification of all the victims was not made for five hours after the wreck according to her report.
When the chaos cleared it was learned ten children ranging from kindergarten through middle school had died at the wreck. The 11th victim died during hospital care.
At the time of the tragedy a group of Spring City woman took the historic step to travel to Nashville to lobby state government, creating the first law requiring school busses to stop at all railroad crossings. The law these woman created eventually was adopted throughout the entire United States.
Now, 50 years later, residents are remembering the children. At the time of the tragedy a large amount of financial support was donated to help with funeral and hospital costs. Some of the remaining donations were used by the families of victims to construct a memorial fountain at the elementary school that displayed the names of the victims. During the renovation and enlargement of the school a number of years ago, the fountain was destroyed and the commemorative plaques re-hung inside the school.
A group of local citizens is working to replace the memorial by the 50th anniversary in 2005 in a location that will be visible to the community.
The commemorative kick-off ceremony Aug. 21, will feature presentation of colors by the Rhea County High School ROTC. A number of other local organizations will participate, including, the Rhea Historical Society, Rhea County Commission and Executive, Spring City Commission, School Board, Woman's Club and Kiwanis members, the Spring City Police Department and Spring City Middle School, among others.
The public is invited to attend this activity to once again support the families and to honor these children.
For additional information contact Annette M. Gould, Publisher of the Watts Bar Lake Observer News, 504 Lakewood Village Road, Spring City, TN 37381, (423) 365-9898.