Recalling the Graniteville train derailment that six years ago today claimed nine lives and displaced more than 5,000 residents conjures up eerie images of a community awakened by a disaster in the early hours of Jan. 6, 2005, and questions about the community's future. The town's fire chief, Phil Napier, reflected on the morning and recalled the crash as a tragedy that the residents in the mill town still struggle to overcome. "And, it's the first time (January 6) will fall on a Thursday since," he said. About 2:40 a.m., a 42-car, three-engine Norfolk Southern train crashed into a parked two-car, one-engine Norfolk Southern train, causing the deadly chlorine spill. Napier said he looks at the now vacant mills and aging water system and wonders, "What if?" "People have tried to get over it, but you just look around and see the constant reminders - the empty mills - and wonder whether or not the derailment caused it to happen," he said. The future of Graniteville is in question, he added. "After the train derailed, we had a lot of involvement from politicians, and we have some working on our water system, upgrades, but as far as the community as a whole, it seems like the town is forgotten," he said. In the days and weeks following the collision, Graniteville gained national attention. State and federal officials made fly-overs as the toxic chemicals blanketed the many homes, churches and schools below and polluted the waterways and destroyed vegetation. Even attempts to clean up the environment have been controversial, Napier said. As the result of an EPA lawsuit, Norfolk Southern was penalized almost $4 million in March because of violations of the Clean Water Act that resulted from the spill. The EPA states that $100,000 of the sum went to planting vegetation along the banks of Horse Creek to decrease erosion and sedimentation, assisting in the improvement of water quality in that stream. Another portion of the money was set aside to restock fish in Langley Pond. The remainder went to the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund. Napier expressed frustration over the allocation of the funds and what he said was the lack of input the EPA received from the community. On the flip side, Napier said the community that lived through the tragedy has banded together. "We have growth in the outlying areas, but the community here is the same population," he said. The incident has changed life in Graniteville forever, he added. For local law enforcement, the crash also impacted the policies and procedures they had in place on the day of the tragedy. Aiken County Sheriff Michael Hunt said an agency always prepares for disaster but added that they learned a tremendous amount from the incident and the response. Numerous safety changes to the rail system have also resulted nationwide. Still, for those present six years ago, Napier said there's a feeling of uncertainty. He said he still talks with some of those who lost family members in the derailment and encourages residents throughout Aiken to remember those who lost their lives that day. The Graniteville Community Coalition, in conjunction with the GVW Investment Corporation and Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church, will hold its annual service Saturday at 3 p.m. at the church, 271 Bethlehem Circle. Contact Karen Daily at