Great tragedy, small town: how history sometimes remembers

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NEW LONDON, Tex. -- The world's greatest tragedies always have given way to stories of hope, heartache, despair and determination to overcome. The London School explosion that happened 70 years ago is no different.

Walter Cronkite, one of the 20th Century's most well-known reporters, called March 18, 1937, the "day a generation died." It is an apt description of the loss of nearly three-fifths of that school's students and teachers.

"We weren't allowed to talk about it. We were not allowed to talk about it at all," said Joan Barton, 77, who was a second-grader when leaking gas ignited 13 minutes before school was to close for a three-day weekend...

The screams perhaps seemed endless that night as parents, reporters, oil field workers and anyone who could help descended on the town of New London.

The explosion is considered the third deadliest tragedy in Texas history, ranking behind the Galveston hurricane of 1900 and the Texas City disaster. While no exact count may ever be determined, 298 students, teachers and others are believed to have died...

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