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  A Bright Future
Abilene Reporter-News
Beaumont Enterprise
Boone County, AR - Daily News
Daily Oklahoman
Dallas Observer
Handbook of Texas Online
Harrison Daily Times
Henderson Times
London Times-London High School
Martial Law
Memphis, TN - Commercial Appeal
Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel
NFPA Journal
Texas Military Forces Museum
Texas Monthly
Tyler Morning Telegraph
Upstream Press

Fact On Energy Newsletter

Sara Mosle NLSD Book Deal 12/1999
The Lives Unlived in Newtown 12/2012
  Dallas Observer (Part 3)  
  After the truck had reached the hospital, the driver noticed that the little girl, though still breathing, had been placed alongside a row of dead bodies. When he urgently called her condition to the attention of one of the doctors, he was told that she was so near death that it would be futile to waste time attempting to save her.

Marie's older sister, who also survived, and her parents would later tell her the remainder of the story once she emerged from a 10-day coma. "The bread-truck driver--I never learned his name--picked me up, put me back into his truck and drove me to a hotel in Overton that was also being used as an emergency hospital.

"In all these years," she says, " I never learned that driver's name. But I'll forever be grateful to him. He saved my life."

Today, Marie, 73, is married to her school days sweetheart, 75-year-old Ike Challis, who was also dug from the rubble.

Mrs. Walter Harris had traveled from nearby Overton to place flowers on the grave of her son James, a fifth-grade student in '37, when we met. Standing near the headstone, she spoke softly. "James was going to be competing in the county meet the next day," she said, " so I'd gone shopping to buy him a new shirt. Then I heard about what had happened at the school and went immediately to see about him and if I could help with the injured."

She had worn a pretty spring dress that day, she recalled, and by nightfall it was bloodstained and matted with grime. "I wasn't even aware of it," she says, "until another lady offered to take me over to her house and loan me some clean clothes."

It would be three days before she and her husband found their deceased son, his body stored in a car shed adjacent to a funeral home in nearby Henderson.

As she told her story she began walking away from James' grave site, then stopped and turned, silent for several seconds. "That day," she finally said, "I sent him off with 35 cents to buy his lunch. When the funeral home returned his personal belongings to us, the money was still in his pocket.

"Even now, all these years later, I still sometimes find myself wondering if he missed lunch, if he died hungry."

It was not until 40 years after the explosion that old schoolmates Pete Miller and Ray Motley returned for a reunion and met each other on the steps leading up to the rebuilt school. Even before they spoke, Motley embraced his friend. He had been knocked unconscious that day when debris began to fall, and it had been Miller who hoisted him onto his shoulders and carried him to safety.

Those who survived all have stories, some they are eager to tell, others they hold too private, too personal to be shared. Many, like Bill Thompson, spent years struggling with "survivor's guilt." He was in fifth-grade English class that afternoon, flirting with a classmate named Billie Sue Hall. To get nearer to her, Thompson persuaded another girl to switch seats with him just minutes before the explosion.

The next thing he remembered was hearing the blast and being hurled into the air. When he fell back to the floor, he looked up to see the ceiling falling toward him.

Though hospitalized for cuts and bruises, he was well enough to be on hand for roll call when school reopened. "I can still remember hearing the teacher call the name of the girl I traded seats with," he says. "Then, a second later, I heard someone say that she had been killed. That's the day I first felt the guilt that I've carried for a long time.

"As the years have passed, I've gone past that memorial monument many times and seen her name. And I think to myself that it should be my name there, not hers."

Though the 77-year-old Thompson had often spoken of trading seats with his 12-year-old classmate that day, he was always careful never to mention her name. Until recently. "I finally called Ethel Dorsey's brother, Gordon, in Farmington, New Mexico," he says. "He listened to the story I'd been wanting to tell him for ages, then said something that made me feel better than I had in a long time. He told me, 'Don't you feel guilty about it.'"
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