March 02, 2010

Survivor Story: Jimmie Robinson

Jimmie Robinson, a third grader in 1937, had walked over to the school “to see the Mexican hat dancers” at a PTA-sponsored event. She was buried in the rubble, with a half-dollar sized hole in her forehead. Her sister Elsie, three years older and injured herself, refused to leave until Jimmie was out.

“I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for her,” says Robinson, whose father worked in the oil field. “They took me to the hospital, cleaned the dirt out of the hole in my forehead, and said if I lived 24 hours I might make it.”

In her own words...

As you may know, there was a PTA meeting being held in the school auditorium that afternoon and since the elementary school students had gotten out early, I walked over to the school where my sister's classroom was located in the basement of the school. The bell had just rung to let the children out --  everyone was gathering in their books and then the school exploded.

All children in the next room to us were killed since the wall fell in on them. My sister never lost consciousness but I was completely covered by debris except for my hands. She proceeded to dig me out and stayed with me until someone picked me up and put me into a truck going to the Overton Hospital at which time we were separated.

When she later came to the hospital, she searched for me and found me laying on a sheet in the corner of a hospital room unconscious and with head injuries.

At that time, the hospital staff was taking pulses and removing bodies and she feared they would take me away. She had a nurse that knew our family to put a tag on me so I would not be taken and because she was ambulatory, she wandered all around with her right eyelid cut in two - but because she was not as badly hurt, the staff tried to take care of the more seriously wounded.

My mother made it to the hospital and was just overcome by the carnage that she observed. My father, who worked in the oilfields, found her on the hospital steps and together they located me and the staff loaded me into an ambulance and sped me to Tyler where a neurosurgeon was on the way in to help with the injured. I was taken to Bryant's Clinic in Tyler, where I became the first patient of Dr. DiErrico (from Dallas) who removed the bone from my upper forehead and said "if she lives 24 hours, she will make it".

In the rush to get me treatment, my sister Elsie was left in Overton. By the time they got her to Tyler, they had to put her in the Mother Frances Hospital. She did not believe that I had survived. After her eye was sewn up and I had regained conscious, they brought her to visit me and we both were reassured that we had indeed survived. I had no recollection of anything until I woke up in the hospital.

My family moved in 1938 first to Hobbs, N.M. and then to the Houston Heights, where the family lived for many years. My sister Elsie died in 1998 of leukemia.

We had three cousins who attended New London at the same time. Their names were Mildred, Sybil and Billie Jordan. My parents were Wilson and Corine Jordan. Because my grandfather's name was James and my parents had only daughters, I was named Jimmie (after my grandfather).  Elsie and I never went to the reunions of the survivors but did make a trip in about 1990 to the site of the memorial in New London.


In 2005, Jimmie Robinson attended the reunion of survivors and families. She donated the dress she was wearing at the time of the explosion to the London Museum exhibits.