Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Former Mayor Revisits Tragedy as Lac-Megantic Marks Five Years since Rail Disaster

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Former Mayor Revisits Tragedy as Lac-Megantic Marks Five Years since Rail Disaster

Article excerpt

Former mayor revists Lac-Megantic disaster

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MONTREAL - Each day the train rolls into Lac-Megantic serves as a stark reminder to former mayor Colette Roy Laroche of the fatal derailment that struck five years ago.

"The whistling of the train reminds us of the tragedy," says Roy Laroche, who became the face of the community in the aftermath of the disaster in which 47 people were killed.

On July 6, 2013, a runaway train hauling tanker cars loaded with volatile crude oil broke loose and barrelled into the town of 6,000 in the wee hours before derailing and exploding.

Besides the deaths, a large swath of the downtown was decimated, leaving Lac-Megantic residents shattered.

Roy Laroche, who stepped down as mayor in 2015, is emotional as she recalls the infinite sadness of so many lost lives but also the soothing images of human solidarity and people coming together in the face of unfathomable pain.

"They are painful memories, especially when you think about that first night, the first day," she told The Canadian Press on Thursday. "But the images that are the most important for me are those of humanity, the image of citizens taking charge."

Roy Laroche would become a beacon for the Lac-Megantic community and a familiar face across the country, earning her the nickname "Granite Lady" for her cool demeanour in the face of the devastation.

"I discovered that I had unsuspected strength because, in retrospect, when I look back and analzye what happened, like many others I often ask myself the question: 'How did I make it through?,'" she said.

It would only be after leaving public office that Roy Laroche felt the full brunt of the tragedy.

During her time in office following the disaster, she didn't give herself the time to worry about herself. But the emotion hit home after her husband passed away shortly before her political retirement. …

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