Written by Amanda Paci
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 11:53
Mention the date “September 11th” to friends or co-workers and it is likely that their minds will quickly race to the fateful events in New York City. But before the national tragedy in 2001, Wyoming Valley residents were touched by the events of September 11th, 1950.
On that day, 33 members of the National Guard of the 109th Field Artillery division from the local Kingston Armory were killed in a train crash in West Lafayette, Ohio.
“We are taking the history of the train crash and making it public (again),” said Dallas High School Senior Eric Novroski.
This year, he and fellow Wyoming Valley Independent Study (WVIS) students Jeremy Stair, Tyler Steve, and Jon Weaver will create a documentary video about the train wreck, which will be featured during the 10th Annual Dallas Harvest Festival on September 16th, on Main St., Dallas.
Each year, students from Dallas High School participate in the WVIS course as a partnership between the school district and community. Dallas Social Science Chairman Tom Gilroy, one of the two teachers to initiate the course, oversees the students’ work. In the name of community participation, Dallas Harvest Festival Committee members Owen Faut and Carol Wall meet with the students throughout the year to offer advice and/or assistance for the project. The finished video is then shown at the Dallas Harvest Festival each September. The incoming class of WVIS
students introduces and shows the video for the outgoing seniors.
“From the beginning of this program, it has been our goal to get students interested in the history of the Wyoming Valley – real, relevant events that they can research, perhaps even through their parents or grandparents because they were there,” said Wall. “Each year, the requirements of the course – doing original research, working on a team, presenting a finished product that requires multiple steps and coordination – seems to have a transforming, even maturing effect on the students.”
“The experience of doing original research has gained the students significant advantages early in their college careers,” said Faut, a retired college professor. “We have requested that they save all the background material they collect and deposit that material with the Back Mountain Memorial Library so future researchers may benefit from the students’ work.”
“We have also seen a genuine sense of community spring from the process, and not just with those who are doing the independent study, but others as well,” he added. “It has been exciting to work with them and with Tom Gilroy and see the sense of community pride develop within the students.”
As an example, Wall cited the students’ overall understanding of the event as a crucial part of our local history.
“The victims of the accident and their families deserve for the 109th train wreck to be common history in the Wyoming Valley,” Weaver said.
What’s to be learned about life-changing events that affect an entire community?
“Our area can pull together in a time of tragedy, and we really need to know about our own history,” he added.
Novroski hopes to show other local residents the rich history of the Wyoming Valley.
“I want others to know the history of the train crash in our area,” he said, “Please come to the Dallas Harvest Festival in September, take a look at our project, and learn about the area.”