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‘A Fine Way to Meet Your Neighbors’ With PM-Derailment

June 10, 1985

PINE BLUFF, Ark. (AP) _ A football game drew passing glances. Bologna and cheese sandwiches were popular but lemonade from Red Cross dispensers was a hit among evacuees after a 42-car derailment and fire forced them from their homes.

Crews hustled 4,000 startled residents Sunday to hastily opened evacuation shelters at Watson Chapel High School and the Pine Bluff Convention Center. A mile away from Watson Chapel, a grey-black pillar of smoke widened, its source and circumstances offering opportunities for ice-breaking conversation.

″I hear it’s bad, real bad,″ said Layton Phillips, 54. His wife Mary and two children shifted restlessly in plastic chairs lining a corridor of the high school. ″We got the word to move out, so we jumped ... Well, at least we get to see our neighbors,″ he said.

″Yeah, it’s a fine way to meet your neighbors,″ growled Floyd Carnett, 52, who moved to Pine Bluff from Las Vegas four months ago. ″I don’t like this too good. If I could get my money back for my mobile home, I’d leave.″

Carnett’s wife, Ann, 56, said she was scared. ″What is going on here?″ she asked no one in particular.

Carnett, who said he was born in northeast Arkansas, said he moved around a lot and ″picked Arkansas as the place I want to die. But not so soon.″

Aline Kraeszig, 67, said police-car loudspeakers alerted her and her brothers to the evacuation. ″They told me to get my bags and go. I didn’t have time to get all my bags. But I went,″ she said, sipping from a paper cup.

″Looks like a long night,″ said John Barr, a worker for the Red Cross.

The high school’s four outgoing telephone lines were abuzz. ″I just want to let my relatives know I’m OK,″ said one man, urging a caller to wrap up his business. ″Hey, we’ve all got relatives,″ said the man on the phone.

Stanley Brown, Jefferson County Red Cross co-ordinator, said about 100 people came to the high school cafeteria and hallway and that most arranged to spend Sunday night with family and friends.

″I had planned to spend the day at home mowing the grass,″ Brown said.

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