Churches plan memorial for Sugar Refinery victims

Imperial Sugar explosion, February 2008.
Imperial Sugar explosion, February 2008.

By Michelle Paynter - bio | email

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - This will be a week of reflection for so many people in the Coastal Empire. Saturday, February 7 marks the one year anniversary of the explosion at Imperial Sugar. That explosion killed 14 people and injured dozens more.

Today, members of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance announced they have organized a remembrance service for this Thursday night. The ceremony is in support of the first responders, injured and lost workers, their families and clergy.

Many of those impacted by the sugar refinery explosion sought comfort in churches across this community.

"I remember that it was a horrendous tragedy that really shook this community," said reverend Samuel Williams, the president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance. "It left a kind of scar for a long time on the lives of many families."

Last February, St. Phillips Monumental AME Church lost a member of its congregation. 56-year-old Eric Barnes was killed in the blast.

"Very traumatizing moment for the congregation and the family," said St. Phillips Pastor George Moore.

Pastor Moore was out of town when the explosion happened. He heard about it on CNN and soon after got a call from the Barnes family.

Pastor Moore continues to counsel the family, helping them begin the process of healing. "It's been very difficult," he said. "Particularly with Miss Estella Barnes, the mother because she was so used to him coming over to see her before going to work and it was just like he disappeared. She never saw him again."

Barnes worked at the refinery for five years. He was a husband and father of two.

Pastor Moore and his fellow members of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance want to honor families like the Barnes who have been thought so much this past year.

"It has an impact on this entire community and I don't think we should allow it to just fade away like it never happened," said Pastor Moore.

The theme for the service these pastors have planned for Thursday, "Remembrance. Lest We Forget".

"And we wanted to be able to let people know we care and do what we could to help," said Reverend Williams. "And I think that's what we've been trying to do all along and that's why we are having this particular remembrance, memorial."

The tribute will take place on Thursday at the St. Philips Monumental AME Church at 1112 Jefferson Street in Savannah from 6:30pm to 8:00pm.