Lebanon Reporter

State News

November 2, 2013

1963 coliseum blast still shapes survivor's life


Finally, Janie gave in, agreed to go to the hospital and sat in the passenger seat of a crammed ambulance.

Doctors poured ice-cold water on her head to clean the wound, and put in stitches. "It felt like they were sewing two pieces of leather together," Janie said.

X-rays didn't show any broken bones, so it was time for Janie to go home. By then, Mrs. Goeke had come by to find her again.

Janie asked Mrs. Goeke if they had found her mother and father. Mrs. Goeke said no. Janie spent the night on Mrs. Goeke's fold-out living room couch, able to sleep with the help of whatever they had given her at the hospital.

The church minister came by the next morning. Her parents were gone.

Janie's sister, Anne, had been calling home from school in Kansas since the night before, first to wish Janie a happy birthday but now because she had heard about the explosions on the radio. She didn't get through, so she called her father's office. The secretary told her what happened.

The White family doctor had identified Al and Violet, perhaps at the morgue-on-ice. When he visited later in the day, Janie asked him one question: Did they die instantly?

As far as the doctor could tell, yes.

Janie definitely did cry that day. And when Anne returned from college, the sisters hugged, though not for long because Janie's ribs were still sore.

But more than anything, Janie felt numb.

Looking back now, she says it was all too much to process. And besides, there were too many logistics to take care of. What clothes would her parents be buried in? Who would look after her? Where would she live?

Janie stayed with the Goekes a while longer. At one point, Mrs. Goeke noticed Janie had been looking out the window as dump trucks went by, hauling some of the broken coliseum concrete.

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