Lebanon Reporter

State News

November 2, 2013

1963 coliseum blast still shapes survivor's life


Fire Marshal Anderson and Indianapolis Fire Chief Arnold W. Phillips were not spared. The jury charged them with misdemeanors.

The choice for Janie was Virginia or California. She was around the same age as her cousins out West, but she knew her mother's brother in Richmond better. So after talking about it with her older sister, Janie decided that was where to go.

The numbness stayed with her as she settled in with Aunt Frankie and Uncle Doug.

It stayed as she came back to Indianapolis during the holidays to clean out the house on Central Court. It stayed as she started at a new school, and repeated part of seventh grade.

It didn't truly wash away until the spring of 1964. Janie was home sick from school.

She went to sleep, and woke up screaming. Aunt Frankie came in and sat with her, rocking her — not something that, until that point, Janie knew her to do.

Around that time the nightmares started — at least the first ones she truly remembered. They would last for decades, taking on different shapes and forms, but the image that would wake her up stayed the same: an older lady in a pool of blood — on the ice.

Early on, people wondered what would become of the coliseum — when it would reopen, whether the public would consider it truly safe, whether people would come back. But that would fade quickly.

Six weeks after the explosions, the coliseum was back: a two-day Polled Hereford cattle show.

Then came September 1964, and the coliseum was packed: a band called the Beatles.

On Oct. 30, 1964, the last of the injured returned home from the hospital. The next day, a memorial service for the victims was held.

Less than two weeks after that, Holiday On Ice returned to the coliseum once more. About 5,000 people attended — more than the night of the explosions.

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