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The Forgotten Disaster That Devastated a Town and ignited a Landmark Legal Ba The man, dazed, replies: “I can’t. I can’t let go of her. I’m holding her insides in.” The woman is finally lowered to a table, and she has a brief moment of coherence when she recognizes a local minister, Rev. Roland Hood. “It’s too much. I just can’t take it, Brother Hood.” The clinic staff watches as she passes away. Texas City cannot handle, absorb, the thousands of wounded people. In Houston and Galvestonat St. Mary’s Hospital, Fort Crockett Hospital, Merchant Marine Hospital, John Sealy Hospital, and St. Joseph’s Hospitalemergency personnel are racing to the front doors, waiting to receive the first victims. On Sixth Street, the city bus pulls away from the Danforth Clinic with two dozen wounded passengers onboard and the bus driver aiming for the Galveston hospitals. The driver heads south, circling through the burning refineries. Seven-year-old Foy Smith is onboard and staring at the nightmare, at the way the storage tanks now seem to be melting and spilling out onto the road in front of the bus. His mother is next to him. She is bleeding from cuts on her face, losing blood at a rapid rate, and her nose seems almost severed. In front of the bus, the road is blocked by abandoned vehicles and burning piles of debris. The driver jams on the brakes and yells over his shoulder to his wounded passengers: “I’m putting this to a vote. I’m not sure if I can get down the road to Galveston. I can turn this thing around and take us up to Houston insteador I can try to barrel through.” Galveston is closer, only ten to twelve minutes away. Smith prays that the people will decide to go to Galveston. If they go to Houston, his mother will bleed to death. In the middle of the bombed-out road, a vote is taken and the driver is told to brave it through the heart of the destruction. . . . Take us to Galveston. Longshoreman Jim Trotter can see nurses and technicians waiting outside John Sealy Hospital with gurneys. Trotter is in a blanket, slipping into shock. He is trying to piece together his memories: He had been standing next to Sandberg on the docks. . . . He was flying end over end. . . . He saw himself suspended somewhere that was soft white. . . .Then he was underwater, his left leg barely attached. As Trotter fights to remember what happened, nurses at John Sealy are helping him onto a gurney. They make way for a priest who looks down at the longshoreman. Trotter hears the priest begin to read the last rites, and Trotter gamely raises his head: “Wait a minute . .. I’m not Catholic, and I’m not near about dead.” At the same time, Joseph Vasquez, a longshoreman friend of Julio Luna’s, is finally wheeled into St. Joseph’s Hospital. He is lying on a cot in a hallway and the doctor is staring at him. “Ls he a Dago? Take him to 223, the morgue; he’s gonna die soon.” The nurse wheels Vasquez into the morgue and covers him with a sheet. A cleaning woman comes into the room filled with dead bodies. Under the sheet, Vasquez asks for someone to please give him a glass of water. She is scared; she tells the doctor there is someone alive in there. He says: “Go ahead, give him all the water he wants. He’s gonna die.” For the next seven hours,Vasquez lies in the morgue until doctors finally see that he is simply not going to die. He is moved out. One thousand seven hundred and eighty-four people from Texas City are going to be admitted to twenty-one continued on page 27 3/28/03 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7