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Stories from the Split Rock Explosion

May 2, 2018 @ 11:15 am - 12:30 pm

A nearly century-old tragedy is motivating OCC students to make a difference in their community. “We want to preserve and memorialize what happened,” said Tara Carr (West Genesee HS, 2017). “We want to make sure Split Rock will never be forgotten.”

Carr is one of eleven students enrolled in “The Split Rock Disaster,” an Honors level class examining the tragedy that occurred July 2, 1918. What was once a former limestone quarry had been turned into a munitions factory where TNT was being manufactured for use in World War I. When a fire started at the site workers fought the blaze until they ran out of water pressure. The raging fire resulted in an explosion which was felt for miles around. Fifty-five workers were killed and 50 were injured.

Early in the semester students traveled to the site which is located off Split Rock Road in the Town of Onondaga. “To see what it looks like now gave us a sad feeling,” said student Flo Downing (Cathage HS, 2015). All that remains is a stone crusher which was built in 1903. “It was covered in graffiti,” added student Beckii Sessions (Town of Webb HS, 2016). “There was trash everywhere. The whole place was wrecked. There was a lot of broken glass and shotgun shells.”

Seeing what the site had become motivated students to take action in connection with the upcoming 100-year anniversary of the tragedy. Under the leadership of Professors Laurel Saiz and Melissa Hicks, students made a presentation to the Onondaga Town Board and are working on a series of related activities:

  • Monday, April 30, from 11:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., in Mawhinney 345 at OCC, “Split Rock at the Center of the World,” a presentation by Professor Laurel Saiz
  • Wednesday, May 2, two performance of “Split Rock: Stories from the 1918 Explosion,” a play researched, written, and performed by OCC students and directed and edited by OHA’s Scott Peal.  Daytime performance is 11:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and the evening performance is at 7 p.m. in Storer Auditorium at OC.  Tickets are $5 and on sale at OHA’s Gift Gallery in downtown Syracuse.


May 2, 2018
11:15 am - 12:30 pm
Event Category:


Onondaga Community College
4585 W Seneca Turnpike
Syracuse, New York 13215
(315) 498-2000
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