10 years later: Lac-Megantic to commemorate rail disaster that killed 47
Ten years after a train derailment killed 47 people, the Quebec municipality of Lac-Mégantic is organizing various activities from July 4 to 8 commemorating the disaster.
"As a city, we also have a duty to remember, and I think we have a duty to highlight this event," said Lac-Mégantic mayor Julie Morin.
The Sainte-Agnès church will open its doors for 24 hours on July 5, and the ensemble Le Petit Rien will perform a concert of baroque chamber music.
Around 1:15 a.m. on July 6 -- the same time 10 years ago that a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded in downtown Lac-Mégantic -- a silent march will take place in memory of those who lost their lives.
A memorial mass will occur at 11 a.m. the same day.
In addition to killing dozens, the 2013 incident destroyed a large part of Lac-Mégantic's downtown, and nearly 2,000 people were evacuated.
"As much as there are people who want us to organize commemorations, there are others who want us to move on," said Morin. "What we want to do this summer -- and it's really according to the will of the citizens -- is to remember, to support each other, because it brings back all kinds of emotions to many people, and also to tell each other stories."
The municipality has also opted for a sober cultural program, at the request of the city's residents. On July 6, a concert will be offered free of charge at parc des Vétérans.
The following day, a show will be presented on the Musi-Café stage.
The cafe, where many perished on the night of July 5-6, reopened a year and a half after the tragedy, 400 meters from its original location.
A "comfort show" will also take place July 8 at parc des Vétérans.
"Light shows and citizen stories will add to the overall show to create a warm atmosphere, a place of communion and pride," reads a release issued by the municipality.
In addition to commemorating the tragedy, the events aim to highlight the reconstruction of Lac-Mégantic.
"I think it's a good time, at the tenth year, to take the time to see how far we've come collectively, both in terms of rebuilding buildings and social reconstruction," said Morin.
"Sometimes we would like to experience things in a more intimate way, but this is also an event that marked Quebec, and I think it's important that we give news," she added, highlighting the wave of solidarity the municipality received following the disaster.
An exhibition highlighting the ten subsequent years will be presented at the Lac-Mégantic heritage station.
"There are still challenges, but there is a long, long, long way to go," the mayor concluded.
Among the challenges is opposition to the Lac-Mégantic rail bypass project, for which the expropriation process was triggered in February.
Some fear environmental and rail safety impacts as "longer and faster" freight trains pass through the municipality.
On April 15, a Canadian Pacific Kansas City (CPKC) train derailed on the same rail line that crosses the Maine border, injuring three employees.
This story was written with the financial assistance of the Meta Exchange and The Canadian Press for news.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 14, 2023.