LOCH LYNN — On Sept. 10, 1959, tragedy struck the small Garrett County town of Loch Lynn when a train collided with a school bus stalled on a railroad crossing, killing seven children and injuring 11 more.
The event uprooted a community and fundamentally changed the fabric of railroad crossings across the nation.
The town came together in remembrance Tuesday, holding a 60-year commemorative program with survivors of the tragedy and members of their families.
“I’m glad that they’re remembering what happened and showing that the town hasn’t forgotten and that the area hasn’t forgotten,” said Roy Hinkle, who was on the bus and injured that day, his 13th birthday.
Seated in the shade and out in the sun on folding chairs, the crowd of about 50 friends, family and dignitaries sweated throughout the ceremony. Speakers took to the lectern in front of a plaque that was dedicated in 2015 to the seven children who died.
“I was able to get an easement from CSX (Transportation) to put up the panel,” Loch Lynn Mayor Carolyn Corley, who was at the accident site when it happened, said during the week prior to the event. “The reason we’re doing this is we don’t ever want people to forget this.”
“We gather here today to commemorate the events of 60 years ago today,” said Corley, opening up the Tuesday’s events with a brief introduction. “We also have as our most special guests survivors of the accident and their family members.”
Garrett County Commissioner Paul Edwards and members of the county Board of Education were among the attendees.
Pastor Barbara Rexford said the opening prayer and Donald Dawson, the mayor of Deer Park, presented a wreath and read off the names of the survivors.
Dawson started with the names of those on the bus who were uninjured: Roy Dixon, Victor Erwin, William Hugh Harvey, Mary Jane Harvey, Larry Harvey, David Friend, James Patton, Gladys Virts and Marjorie Paugh.
Afterward, Dawson moved to the names of those injured: Delores Burns, Nancy Ringer, Mary Wotring, Deanna Sutton, James Hinkle, Roy Hinkle, Patricia Hickey, Marjorie Byers, Sandra Holland, Mary Lee and Francis Sharpless.
“Friends, life is unpredictable, it can change in a moment,” Rexford said. “Time is so precious and we take so much for granted.”
Don Sincell, the mayor of Mountain Lake Park, reflected on some of the light that came out of the darkest day in the town’s history. Now buses are required to stop at every railroad crossing and grade crossing signals — i.e., arms and flashing lights — are required at every crossing.
Garrett County rescue squads were formed in the following years, and the area hospital revamped itself.
“The darkest clouds nearly always have some silver lining,” Sincell said.
Corley and Sincell announced the names of those who died and rang a bell for each while giving a white rose to a member of the family to place on the plaque.
Those who died were: Janet Deem, Nancy Deem, Merle Harvey, Nancy Harvey, Richard Hinkle, Lee Hoffman and Shirley Lee.
“It’s been too long coming,” said Dennis Riley, who was 15 years old on the day of the crash. His father owned the bus that was behind the one struck. “It’s a shame it happened.”
“It’s nice but it brings back the memories,” said Patricia Hickey, who was on the bus that day with her brothers James, Roy and Richard.
Follow staff writer Brandon Glass on Twitter @Bglass13.