Graniteville, a town that was devastated by a train derailment in 2005 that leaked chlorine gas into the air and killed nine people, came together recently for a Christmas celebration in the hopes of overcoming that loss.
Since July 2006, Graniteville has seen little activity as people of the town mourned the aftermath – the loss of lives, the mill closure and the town disappearing before their eyes.
Bobby Harley, a lifelong Graniteville resident, had enough of the town’s silence and made a stand against the villain who robbed her.
Harley worked this year to pull together residents of the town for “Love Our Town Christmas Tree Lighting,” an event held Dec. 15. Harley cut down a pine tree, placed it in front of Hickman Hall in Graniteville and began to gather residents and people who love the town of Graniteville.
Harley also posted a call for people to bring an ornament with their name and year of graduation to place on the freshly-cut tree.
Diane Goodwin Gunter with the Horsecreek Historical Society donated money for tree lights. Cynthia Harper Gordon provided extra ornaments to hang on the tree and secured Santa to visit the night of the celebration. Her nephew, Jerry Akin, hung the lights, and Sally Jennings also helped decorate the tree prior to the planned celebration. Sheri Bledsoe Gossett provided snacks.
Laura and Heyward Ringer were busy making goodies bags for Santa to distribute after the children whispered their Christmas wishes. Danny McGee decorated a holly tree and worked to clean up the area before the celebration.
Also, Tina Thompson Bevington arranged music and coordinated the collection of ornaments.
Resident Phil Napier allowed use of his company, Napier Hardware and Flower Shop, as a drop-off destination for ornaments.
On Dec. 15, Graniteville came back to life. About 70 people attended the celebration, and the air was filled with song and laughter as Gene Wilson sang and played the saxophone and Mel Mintor served as a deejay.
Harley and Jennings have plans to make the tree lighting an annual event.