'We couldn't feel our legs': Survivors relive deadly Illinois Central train crash 50 years later

'They had to peel off all the dead and injured and metal to get to us to get us out': Lisa Klare

Michelle Gallardo Image
Sunday, October 30, 2022
Survivors relive deadly Chicago train crash 50 years later
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A Hyde Park, Chicago event honored victims, survivors and first responders of the deadly 1972 Chicago train crash on the Illinois Central Railroad.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The 27th Street station is rarely used these days and the Illinois Central Railroad is no longer in operation. But, it was along these same tracks still used by the Metra Electric Line that 50 years ago, a historic Chicago train crash killed 45 people and injured 331 more.

The accident happened after a northbound Illinois Central commuter train overshot its platform at the 27th Street Station, where the Metra Electric line now runs, and proceeded to back up around a bend to allow its passengers to disembark. A second train, following behind on the same track, did not see the train until moments before impact.

Survivors said Sunday's service is perhaps the first one to honor all of the victims, survivors and first responders from that day.

Inside Hyde Park's First Unitarian Church, Lisa Klare and Louise Lawarre read out the names of those who died on October 30, 1972.

They did not know each other at the time. They weren't even on the same train, but the then-17-year-old high school senior and then-22-year-old young mom were about to be tied together forever by tragedy.

"You would always feel the train stop and back up. It was just part of the routine. I remember the train stopping and backing up," Lawarre said. "I was up on the little upper balcony area reading my book, and I don't remember anything else until I woke up in the hospital on my way into surgery."

Klare spent hours trapped inside one of the cars.

"I boarded the train before 7 a.m. that morning. Met up with my friends Dean and Pat, hoped on the smoking car because Dean wanted to have a cigarette. After he had that cigarette, I took his pack away from him and said, 'that's your last one.' And sadly it was his last one, because sadly, he did not make it out of that accident alive," Klare said. "We were inside of basically two trains by the time they found us. And they had to peel off all the dead and injured and metal to get to us to get us out," Klare said.

While Sunday's service was a small, intimate affair, it was a day those in attendance saw they could not let go past unnoticed.

"And, the rescue workers were phenomenal," Klare said. "They sent a fireman to stay with us the entire time. And it was pretty scary. We couldn't feel our legs so we were pretty nervous about that. They'd injected us with shots of morphine to help with the pain."

Klare said her hope is to drum up enough support to get a plaque installed near the accident site that will forever memorialize those who lost their lives that day.

"Remembering is essential to us. We can't forget history and we can't forget the people we loved," Lawarre added.