Remembering the Texas City disaster

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TEXAS CITY, TX – In the month of April we remember several national tragedies but the deadliest wasn’t the Boston Marathon Bombing, the fertilizer plant explosion in the town of West or the Oklahoma City bombing; it was the explosion of the Grandcamp docked in Texas City.

In what’s known as the Texas City Disaster, 575 people were killed when 2,300 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded on the ship. To give you an idea how big a boom that was: it took only 240 tons to level West and 2.5 tons to level the Murrah Federal Building.

“That terrible disaster is still the worst industrial accident in the United States,” says Claire Duncan, the Director of the Texas Medical Association’s Knowledge Center in Austin, Texas.

The Center is showcasing the Texas City disaster with an exhibit called Bugs, Bones and Blood which examine the history of forensic medicine.  That’s relevant because although 405 people were identified, the force of the blast left 69 people unidentified and 100 people listed as missing because their remains were never found. Pictures, newspapers, telegrams and letter detail these harrowing events 67 years ago. However, one good thing did rise from the smoke and carnage of the Texas City disaster.

“As part of the aftermath of the disaster they actually developed a statewide emergency planning office,” explains Duncan.

The exhibit runs through October – after that, it’s history (uh, you know what we mean).