Community Binds Together in Time of Crisis

Feb 04, 2003 01:21 PM EST

KINSTON, N.C. - The people of Kinston answers the call for help when a Pharmaceutical plant explodes within their community. The local Baptist church immediately opened their doors to those injured in the Jan. 20 explosion, which caused 4 casualties.

Harold Burton, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Kingston said the blast "rocked the church."

Upon hearing the explosion, which took place at 1.30 in the morning, Burton ran to the airport, thinking a jet plane had crashed. However, he realized from the cloud of smoke that the pharmaceutical plant had blown up.

"People were coming out of the building who had been burned, and some were already on the ground," he said.

He reached to site to see a scene as horrid as the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

"The statement was made, 'We know how they felt in New York,'" he said.

Minutes after the blast, helicopters and ambulances arrived for assistance. As rescue workers worked to help the injured, they determined a staging area was crucial for family members and others trying to reach the plant or gain information.

Burton immediately volunteered Immanuel's facilities, less than a mile away, and soon, nearly 500 people gathered at the church. Among them, Beddie Tarlton, acted as the on-site coordinator for the Baptist State Convention relief service. His five-member crew supplied food from the disaster relief warehouse in Grifton. Ashley Summerlin, pastor of Seven Springs Baptist Church acted as the Neuse Association disaster relief team leader, and brought six people to help the cause.

The crewmembers set up their equipment in Immanuel's church kitchen, and began preparing meals for the families, fire workers, rescue workers and newsagents that were gathered. More than 300 meals were prepared the first day; most were trucked to the workers at the site. Even the local "Papa John's" franchise pizzeria provided 85 pizzas for the cause.

The next day, a team of 13 relief crews, lead by Mike Anders, arrived from the South Roanoke Association. Throughout the day, 150 meals were prepared for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. David Leary, director of missions for the Neuse Baptist Association, helped coordinate counseling services for employees and family members in shock; some of the members were brought to the church in buses from the scene.

"It was a real emotional thing," he said. Leary said, hearing the cries of the family members who had lost a relative. "We were trying to minister to their needs," he continued.

Leary said a fund has been set up to accept donations for those impacted by the accident. Donations can be sent to the association at 176 Piney Grove Road, LaGrange, NC 28551-7700.

By Pauline C.