Our View: Disaster a lesson for the future

Published 12:09 pm Saturday, March 10, 2018

On Thursday, Winchester recalled one of its worst disasters in the city’s storied history.

It was a century ago when the Pastime Theatre in downtown was destroyed and nearly 100 people were injured.

At about 7:45 p.m. Sunday, March 9, 1918, as the first feature was playing at the Pastime Theatre was playing, a four-story brick wall of the adjoining building collapsed and fell on the theater.

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The steel roof, rafters and bricks came down on the audience.

The accident caused 11 deaths.

And it could have been prevented, sadly.

The Thursday before the accident, a fire gutted the J.T. Luma building next door to the theater. In the aftermath of the fire, a high, unsupported wall next to the theater was left standing.

The theater was packed with a standing-room-only crowd of approximately 100 people. Many of the injured and killed were children, who occupied the front rows of the theater in the area where the wall fell. Others were injured as the panic-stricken audience rushed for exits.

Warnings were given to local officials who check the wall, which was reportedly swaying in 60 mph winds,  and have the OK for the theater to open.

However, this tragedy sheds light on the need for extra precautions.

It is a terrible tragedy so many lives, and so many that were so young, were lost. But as with any tragedy, there are lessons to be learned.

Remember our past is an important part of moving forward. It requires us to mourn great losses but to make changes, implement precautions and make every attempt to prevent further loss.