HALF a century after her train driver husband died in the Violet Town rail disaster, Wodonga grandmother Gwen Ziebell has lauded recognition of the tragedy as a “comfort”.
She was among 500 who on Sunday saw a memorial garden opened to mark the smash between a goods train and the Southern Aurora passenger service on February 7, 1969.
Mrs Ziebell’s husband Laurie Rosevear was guiding the freight engine that was struck by the Southern Aurora which was piloted by fellow Wodonga driver Jack Bowden, who had suffered a fatal heart attack and missed a passing loop.
“I’ve always shut my eyes going through Violet Town (on the train) or read a book so it’s been quite nice to get to know people and learn what they did,” she said.
She was referring to townsfolk who rescued the scores injured in the calamity which was recalled on Thursday at a vigil at the crash site about a kilometre south of the Violet Town railway station which faces the new garden.
“I think it’s always there in the back of your mind,” Mrs Ziebell said of the crash which happened when her oldest son Doug was only a toddler and she was pregnant with second son Mark.
“I moved on and I married again and had another boy, so I’ve got three boys, but anything like that is always on your mind and these things bring it back like it was yesterday, but I think they’ve done a marvellous job and brought a lot of comfort to people.
“It helps to bring closure because years ago they didn’t have counselling and I was busy because I had one little boy and another on the way.”
The chairman of the Southern Aurora Commemorative Committee Gary Abley said he was thrilled at the response to the garden unveiling.
“It was brilliant,” Mr Abley said.
“We were pretty nervous about today because we didn’t know how it would pan out.
“The main thing is the people who were affected by what happened are happy and that’s good because they’re the ones that matter.”
Earlier in his speech at the opening, Mr Abley described how a “derelict unsightly paddock” had been turned into a garden through contributions that ranged from free soil through to a builder voluntarily constructing a barbecue shelter.
He told survivors and their rescuers the garden was “a very small way of saying ‘thank you’” and showing “you won’t be forgotten”.
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