Where were you on May 27, 1994?
That was the day of the Shell Chemical plant explosion in Belpre, that claimed three lives, did 100-million dollars in damage, and drew the attention of the nation.
If you were here in the Valley on that day, it’s one you’re not likely to forget.
For me, it started with a phone call from a new reporter of ours named Shelley Sindland.
Shelley called to tell me that the Shell Chemical plant had blown up.
I scurried to get ready to go shoot footage thinking “she must be exaggerating!”
But as I drove down Garfield Avenue in Parkersburg and looked westward, I began to believe she was right.
Luckily, the entire plant didn’t blow up, but a significant portion did.
I got a camera and went and shot some of the earliest footage and then came back to the station to direct our coverage that day.
There were some tense moments as we discussed the safety of our employees, if the rest of the plant should explode, or if such an explosion might trigger other explosions at plants like DuPont.
Were we better off sending people home or letting them stay here, protected by the floodwall that runs next to our building?
We ended up letting the folks who wanted to leave, to leave…and those who wanted to stay, could stay.
WTAP’s news coverage…led that day by John Fortney and Todd Baucher… was pretty amazing.
We carried news conferences live and shared our feed with local radio stations to help get as much information out as we could.
It was a tragic but memorable day.
And this Memorial Day, John and Todd will take a look back at that event, how it impacted the valley, and how Shell (now Kraton) has evolved in the 20 years since.
Those reports will air on Memorial Day and spill over into the actual anniversary, Tuesday, May 27th.
I hope you’ll watch.
That’s this week’s editorial.
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