Class officers and administrators of West Rusk High and Junior High Schools remembered the victims of the 1937 London School Explosion Thursday morning at the Memorial.
They were joined by West Rusk ISD staff and London High School graduates and students. Some of the London group have personal ties to the gas explosion which took 294 lives over three generations ago.
“This is a moment of love, sadness and remembering,” said West Rusk High School Principal Jake Jackson. “We as a school remember what happened here 80 years ago. We realize the inspiration and significance of the school which was rebuilt. Most importantly, we want to preserve the precious memories of London School students with us, and we don’t want those memories to die with them.”
Class officers from grades fifth through eleventh, in succession, placed white and yellow blossoms behind a row of eight Spanish tiles at the base of the Memorial. The tiles were once part of the roof of the rebuilt London School, now called West Rusk. The aging tiles were replaced two years ago by metal.
The eight tiles were numbered five through eleven, representing the seven grades hit by the explosion. Those tiles were adorned with blue bows. The last tile, representing the lost teachers, postgraduates and visitors, had a white ribbon. West Rusk officers setting the student blossoms were Tre Cochran and Kyrsten Price (fifth grade); Anna Santana and Tate Winings (sixth); Caleb Haffner and Deanna Mason (seventh); Samantha Malone and Zack Starr (eighth); Brenda Alcantar (freshmen); Allison Bobbitt (sophomores); Miranda Beall and Faith Williams (juniors). Sam Gibbs, president of the senior class, put in the orchids for the teachers.
Becky Tyner, a 1961 London graduate and now head archivist for the London Museum, was present at the West Rusk service, which was her idea.
“I thought this was something extra the school could do to remember the occasion,” she stated. “So I talked with [Superintendent] Lawrence Coleman and [Assistant Superintendent] Leah Bobbitt, and it came to be.”
Once the flowers were laid, Jackson asked the London alumni to sing their School Song. The Wildcats chanted their alma mater flawlessly. Next, the current generation gave a chorus of West Rusk’s official hymn.
Jackson reminded the attendees of the public memorial service at 10 a.m. in West Rusk’s auditorium, on Saturday, March 18, the 80th anniversary to the day of the tragedy.
The service concluded with everyone joining hands, forming a circle around the Memorial and bowing their heads in a moment of silence.