Lebanon Reporter

State News

November 2, 2013

1963 coliseum blast still shapes survivor's life


I'm not leaving until I find my parents.

A heavy police presence had been on site to snuff out Halloween vandalism. Now, if officers and their many incoming counterparts weren't extracting the injured from the rubble, they were piling up now-ownerless shoes, purses and jackets. And counting the dead.

The cold of the ice made it a natural choice for a morgue. They covered the bodies with blankets, which weren't quite big enough to obscure some of the injuries.

Some victims were so badly burned that Indiana State Police Detective Don Carlisle couldn't tell if they were male or female.

"All their hair was burnt off," Carlisle said in a recent interview, "and they were burnt black."

Catholic priests delivered last rites. Authorities set up a clergy section at their makeshift control center so ministers could call next of kin.

News reporters tallied bodies and noted the chairs "scattered like ten-pins" and the concrete chunks "as big as three feet by four feet in size."

Yet Carlisle and at least one other couldn't help but notice that the mayhem was also strangely quiet. No one seemed to be crying. No one seemed to be raising voices.

Witnesses suggested it had been that way since soon after the blast. "The survivors," one account said, "were evidently too stunned to panic."

A family friend of Janie's from Tabernacle Presbyterian Church lived near the fairgrounds. Mrs. Goeke had heard the explosion — it shook the china out of her cabinet — and come running. She bumped into Janie by chance.

She, too, urged Janie to go to the hospital. But Janie still said no. Mrs. Goeke sat Janie down in a chair, in the care of a man loading people onto ambulances. Mrs. Goeke went inside.

Janie waited, her eyes scanning the scene. Each person on a gurney or walking out of the building could be Mommy or Daddy.

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