December 16, 2015 | The Advocate |LIVINGSTON — The wreckage splintered the pines like matchsticks and sowed the field with flames.
But even after the last fire had been snuffed out, a more insidious threat had leached into the earth beneath Livingston.
At 5:12 a.m. Sept. 28, 1982, an Illinois Central Gulf freight train staffed by a crew that had been drinking bourbon ran off the tracks just north of the Livingston Town Hall. Of the 43 cars that derailed, 34 contained hazardous materials or flammable petroleum products, and many breached, burned and exploded, spewing toxic vapors over the town.
Residents woke up thinking they had been thrown into a war zone or the path of an earthquake. One told a reporter she thought the world was coming to an end.
“We were so unprepared for something like this. … In no way were we prepared to deal with this,” recalled Mayor Derral Jones, who was the fire chief at the time.