The Bastrop, Texas, Senior Center opened as usual Wednesday morning, but members were checking on 34 of their comrades injured and grieving the four lost when a train hit a charter bus that had gotten hung up on the CSX tracks in Biloxi on Tuesday afternoon.
Most of the 46 people on the Echo Transportation bus are members of the center, which sponsors trips and activities year-round. Ruth “Baby Ruth” Bullock, center treasurer, said members in Bastrop stayed at the center until 11 p.m. Tuesday night, fielding telephone calls, and returned by 9 a.m. Wednesday morning.
“We’re still going to conduct business as usual,” Bullock said. “We are family. We need to see each other.”
Bullock said center members have the names of those who died, but they are being withheld at the request of Harrison County Coroner Gary Hargrove until family members are notified. The Austin American-Statesman newspaper has identified two of the deceased as former adminstrators in the Lockhart, Texas, school district.
Bullock said the center is involved in a lot of cruises and bus trips, usually booked through Echo Transportation.
In fact, she said, she was in a charter-bus accident about 2 1/2 years ago as the group headed to a casino in Coushatta, Louisiana. They had almost arrived when a truck hit their bus.
“We all had to jump out the windows” she said. “We were almost turned over in a ditch. We had several injuries and people who had to stay for surgeries.”
Bullock said she immediately worked to assist others who were injured before she realized she had been hurt, too. Nobody died, she said, although the accident did make national news, as did Tuesday’s wreck.
Bullock, who is retired from the Austin Police Department, said her first-responder instincts kicked in after the accident in Louisiana. She said she only wishes she could have helped in Biloxi.
“I’m there in spirit.”