50 years later, a Marietta church remembers tragic explosion

Published: Oct. 10, 2021 at 6:28 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 10, 2021 at 8:47 PM EDT
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MARIETTA, Ohio (WTAP) - A Marietta church’s congregation gathered to remember the second tragedy to happen in Marietta in less than two years, back in the 1970′s.

21 months after a devastating nursing home fire in January, 1970, an explosion at the First Baptist Church resulted in yet another loss of life.

It happened not during services, but during Sunday School taught by Michael Murphy in the church’s basement, the morning of October 10, 1971.

The boiler room explosion caused the floor to collapse to the basement of the structure as it existed at that time.

Murphy, 30, and four other students were killed, and 14 others, including 12 children, were injured.

Sunday morning, exactly 50 years later, the congregation which included people who lost family members in the blast, heard the current pastor talk about how the church recovered from that horrible day.

“Sometimes we face challenges, and it seems they’re one thing after another,” said Reverand Chad Mugrage, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church of Marietta. “And that’s what we focused in on the sermon today.”

The explosion happened just two days after the church and its congregation were reeling from another tragedy. It’s leader had passed away two days before. Pastor Donald Duncan was lying in state that Sunday, after he died October 9th of a heart attack.

“The American Baptist Church sought out a pastor who had a counseling background,” Rev. Mugrage recalls. “Don Shuler was here 26 years, and helped to walk the church through that very difficult time.”

After the tragedy made national news, support came in from all over the country. A prisoner even sent a small gift of $2.

Sunday’s observance comes as the nation tries to cope with the events of the past two years.

“It’s interesting to me to watch how things like this bring people together,” Rev. Mugrage says. “Even today, bringing our family and our community together has been a great day.”

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