Friday, June 12, 2009

Pipeline Explosion anniversary

Posted by Leona Bergstrom

This weeks marks the 10th anniversary of the pipeline explosion in Bellingham. Three young people lost their lives in that fiery disaster. It was a horrible and devastating event.

The explosion is forever burned into my own memory and life. On June 10 I was headed home after a long and tiring day of work. I decided to treat myself to a beautiful convertible drive home rather than go my usual route, so I headed east on Iowa Street toward Whatcom Falls Park and Bayview Cemetery. It was sunny and the top was down! I was stopped a red light when before me a huge fire ball burst from the forest and blasted its way across my horizon. Before I could take a breath the fireball roared across the bridge and all along the creek to my right. It was not hard to see that the damage was immediate and devastating. I knew lives would be lost. My fear was that this incendiary ball was headed toward downtown Bellingham.

I pulled over, put the convertible top up because I didn’t know what was going to rain down on me, and headed immediately back to the hospital. Since I was on the management staff I knew that I needed to report to the disaster response team. Surely there would be multiple injuries and probable deaths. I was assigned to the switchboard where I began taking multiple calls from worried parents wondering if their children had been taken to the ER. I was also a liaison to the ER taking messages to families and hospital staff there. It was then that I encountered the family of one of the young boys who was seriously injured. I shall never forget the sight of a dad following the burned body of his 10-year-old son to the ambulance to be transported to a burn center in Seattle. The loss, fear and devastation was beyond description.

Two little boys lost their battle and died the next day. Another teenager was overcome by the fumes and flames as he fished on the once calm creek. Three lives were lost. It was a sad, sad day.

I recall that memory with continued sadness and residual horror. My prayers continue to be with the families and an entire community that suffered such loss. I am grateful for the work that has been done in the past decade to demand stricter regulations for gas pipelines and improve safety.

May the young who lost their lives rest in peace, and may their families find comfort on this day of remembrance.
(Photo of Whatcom Creek by edgeport, shared via Flickr)


Karla said...

To this day I am amazed that there were only three. I remember in highschool it wasn't uncommon for there to be 20+ kids skipping school to go play at the falls. When I first heard of what happened I was certain there'd be more. It is such a tragity that it happened at all and my heart goes out to the families who lost their boys that day.

Peggy Forster said...

That is a beautiful tribute!!!!