Letter: Remember victims of Rocky Mountain Natural Gas explosion
On the corner of an empty lot on Devereux Road in Glenwood Springs, between the Coca Cola building and the Green Dragon, there’s an empty lot with a small brick bench in the corner, surrounded by a few bushes. There’s an American flag in front. Many probably drive by it without knowing why it’s there.
My family moved to Glenwood in 1966. The first friend I met was a boy named Rex Rhodes. He was a little older than me, but we lived only three houses apart, and we shared several interests. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say he was my best friend for the year and a half we lived there.
When we moved away, in January of 1968, Rex and I pledged to stay in touch. We didn’t, of course — there were a couple of letters back and forth, but we lived 200 miles apart, and childhood friends tend to fall by the wayside. Nobody means it to happen; it just does.
On December 16, 1985, Rex was working at the Rocky Mountain Natural Gas Co. building, where both his father and younger brother worked. A propane tank was brought in for repairs. Unfortunately, it had a malfunctioning pressure gauge. The tank was supposed to be empty. It wasn’t. When the driver removed the gauge, the sound of escaping natural gas had people running for the exits. Then came the explosion.
Twelve people didn’t make it. Among the 12 were my friend Rex, and his father, Allen Rhodes. I’ve thought of Rex often over the years since but only found out recently there was a memorial, so on a trip to Colorado, my wife and I went looking for it.
With help from a dispatcher at the police department — who hadn’t heard of the explosion until the day I called — we found the bench that was erected on the site of the tragedy, and the large brick pavilion in Two Rivers Park that bears a plaque with all their names on its back wall. It’s a nice memorial to my friend, and to his friends.
My thanks go out to the folks of Glenwood Springs, for honoring them. Please think about them sometime when you drive past that flag, or walk past the pavilion.
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