Canada Lac-Megantic Rail Disaster: Musi-Café ReopensBy Esther Tanquintic-Misa | December 16, 2014
Musi-Café, the business establishment that figured directly in the July 2013 Lac-Megantic rail disaster in Canada, has finally reopened. The restaurant-bar quietly opened its doors to the public on Monday 400 metres away from ground zero.
Yannick Gagne, Musi-Café owner, still vividly remembers how it all happened a year ago. “The sky, everything inside, outside became orange,” CBC News quoted Gagne, who shared the memory as if it only happened yesterday. “I felt the heat coming to the window, blowing heat. I saw a wall, a big wall of fire 300, 400 feet high.”
To say that the bar’s reopening is a testament of hope would be an understatement. The train derailment and explosion killed 47 people in Quebec. It took for months, the area endured painful and difficult memories.
Gagne was lucky to have left the bar 40 minutes before tragedy hit. It wasn’t the same for two of his employees as well as to some 28 others who were there at the time. He said until now, he still has nightmares of being trapped inside with them. In those, he saw how the people tried hard to escape.
On Monday’s reopening, only three of the original employees came back to work with him. One of those was the chef, a girl who had worked for him for three or four years and another good friend. The latter, identified as Karine Blanchette, will handle all the artists who will come to the resto-bar.
Forty-seven people were killed in Lac-Megantic when a train of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Canada, carrying 72 tankers full of crude oil, derailed and exploded in the town. It had been earlier parked uphill from Lac-Megantic, unattended, when it started its descent into the town. A gigantic explosion ensued, destroying 40 buildings and ripping a large area of Lac-Megantic. About 2,000 residents were forced to flee their homes.
Gagne almost left town because he felt people blamed him for the death of the 47. He said there were some who will look away when they see him coming nearby. “I know it’s normal, but it puts a lot of pressure … I’m not the devil, I didn’t put the train inside the Musi-Café.”
Yet there were also other people who pushed and motivated him to rebuild the café as a sign of healing and closure as well. Christian Lafontaine, a survivor, was one of them. He told him they needed the café to heal, and to move on. “All the people of Mégantic … they haven’t healed yet. They suffer still,” Lafontaine said.
Gagne said the new restaurant-bar will cost $1.5 million. He said the provincial government has provided a loan, “a financial bridge.” The federal government had likewise extended help. Musi-Café will have an official “red carpet and champagne” opening in February.