Town of Port Wentworth Back to Work but Grieving

Business as usual in the town of Port Wentworth, GA but many are still grieving.
Business as usual in the town of Port Wentworth, GA but many are still grieving.

PORT WENTWORTH, GA (WTOC) - Port Wentworth is a small town and it's hard to find someone who doesn't know a sugar refinery worker or a member of their family.

The explosion at the plant is the worst tragedy this town has ever faced.

From the outside looking in, it was business as usual in Port Wentworth. Construction workers doing road repairs, folks stopping in at the Deli Mart for a bite to eat, and a man and his dog enjoying the day at the park.

Take a closer look and you'll see that this town of only 5,000 people is grieving. Stop and listen, it's in their voices.

"Everybody is kind of somber," said life-long resident Jim Dunigan.

The sugar refinery was built in 1917. For folks like Dunigan, the plant has always been a part of them.

"It's a large part," he said. "I played baseball for the sugar refinery as a teenager."

Dunigan knows dozens of people who work at the plant. "Everybody there knew just about everybody here. It was all just one big family."

He knows one of the missing workers. "It's a shock something like that would happen here," he said.

Shock is the same word Audrey Blare used to describe how she was feeling. "I grew up in Port Wentworth and what happened here Thursday night really impacted everybody, it's been shocking because that's been something that's been here you know."

Blare and others wonder what the future holds for the refinery. But more importantly, they feel for the families dealing with this tremendous loss and they are grieving with them.

Many of the emergency responders and firefighters also know some of the refinery workers.

Reported by Michelle Paynter, mpaynter@wtoc.com.