Estelle Scarborough is likely the oldest living survivor of the Texas City Disaster. On her way to becoming 99, she sometimes wonders why she lived, while nearly 600 were killed. She thinks of it often. " Many, many times. I've got a lot to be thankful for. "
Scarborough was working at the Monsanto Chemical Plant. Just across the pier was the French Liberty Ship with a load of ammonia nitrate. " The ship was sitting out there in the bay and just bellows of smoke coming out of it when we went to work, " recalled Scarborough. No one thought too much of it. Then an hour later, " It did blow up. The entire ship. "
The explosion covered Scarborough with debris. Her family didn't know if she was alive or dead shared Scarborough's niece, Donna Wood. " My dad, he went through the bodies to see if he could find my aunt. And then my mom went to all the hospitals and the last hospital on Galveston, they saw Aunt 'Stelle's name."
Scarborough survived, but was seriously hurt. The injuries were mostly from glass windows. 80 pieces remain in her body to this day. She points to a small bulge in her wrist. " A piece of glass under my skin right there. " Scarborough was in and out of hospitals for five years. A lot of opportunity to remember the friends she lost. " Some of my close friends that were downtown....there were buildings crumbling and debris fell on them, " she quietly recalled.
Today Scarborough has other friends, one was thoughtful enough to organize a reception when she was unable to make it to Texas City's 61st Memorial. Ms Scarborough says she prefers remembering that fateful day in her native East Texas where the focus can be placed on the future rather than the past.