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Lac-Megantic benefit in two towns; $36,000 donated to Quebec town
Lac-Megantic Mayor Colette Roy Laroche (left) addresses people representing the fire departments of Rumford, Mexico, Dixfield and Peru during Saturday's benefit at the Rumford Eagles for the Quebec town. (Times photo by Bruce Farrin)
REGION -- Lac-Megantic benefit concerts held in Rumford and Farmington on Saturday raised an estimated $36,000 for the Quebec town.
Lac-Megantic Mayor Colette Roy Laroche, along with five other Lac-Megantic officials, attended both benefits.
At the Rumford Eagles, local musicians provided entertainment for the mayor and other Canadian officials and the more than 100 people who came to support the county's northern neighbors.
Eagles' Trustee Ralph Arsenault said that besides the music, there was a spaghetti supper, a Chinese auction and a 50/50 raffle. On Monday, he said money was still coming in but they had raised around $4,000.
Firefighters representing the fire departments of Rumford, Mexico, Dixfield and Peru were in attendance, as well as State Sen. John Patrick, State Rep. Sheryl Briggs and Mexico Town Manager John Madigan.
Starting and closing the 12-hour benefit was music from the Leblanc Family. Also performing were Original Condition, Watermelon Wine, Shiloh Creek, and the Western Mountain Boys.
Arsenault said the idea for the effort in Rumford began a couple of months ago after he visited with a friend, Edgar Carrier, who lives in Woburn, Quebec, which is located nearby to Lac-Megantic. Also helping in this effort were Fred Stone and Donny Leblanc.
During the early hours on July 6, an unattended 72-car Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway train rolled downhill for about seven miles before it derailed and exploded in the downtown area of Lac-Megantic. An estimated 47 people died and at least 30 downtown buildings were destroyed as a result of the derailment and resulting fire from tanker cars filled with crude oil.
The names of the 47 people who died at the accident were read as a bell tolled for each of them.
Today, Lac-Megantic is all right but it has "a long road ahead," Roy Laroche said through her translator, Louis Longchamps.
The downtown was not only devastated by the initial fire but is now polluted and facing a long cleanup effort, she said.
"The businesspeople won't be able to go back into the area until June of next year," said Roy Laroche.
Some people lost their jobs when the downtown was destroyed, but some have found other jobs and some businesses are trying to relocate and restart before Christmas, she said.
"There's no normal routine to life," Roy Laroche said. "Every day it's something different."
In Farmington, where Lac-Megantic officials visited first, an estimated $32,000 was raised as firefighters from Chesterville, Eustis, Farmington, East Dixfield, New Vineyard, Phillips, Rangeley and Strong, along with U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud, were in attendance.