07/06/10 — Church builds, dedicates park to four lost in fireworks accident

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Church builds, dedicates park to four lost in fireworks accident

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 6, 2010 1:46 PM

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A wooden cross and benches comprise the chapel area of Holland Park and playground at The Lord's Table Church, created to honor the memories of four church members who died last July 4 while unloading fireworks from a truck on Ocracoke Island.

A year after a fireworks explosion on Ocracoke Island claimed the lives of four church members, The Lord's Table has dedicated a park and playground in their memory.

Sunday morning's worship service was abbreviated, marking the somber anniversary.

After several musical selections by the congregation, pastor Bill Wilson took the stage -- wearing a white T-shirt bearing the words "The Nerve to Serve" encircling a picture of Terry Holland, whom Wilson said had been "like a son" to him.

Holland, longtime building maintenance supervisor at the church, epitomized the heart of a servant, Wilson said, and the shirts were created soon after the accident to challenge members of the congregation to step up and serve in the same manner.

On July 4, 2009, Holland, 49, Charles "Kirk" Kirkland, Jr., 49, Lisa Simmons, 41, and Mark Hill, 21, died while unloading fireworks for a display on the island. All were part of a crew working for Melrose South Pyrotechnics near Rock Hill, S.C.

Kirkland was son of the church's senior pastor, the Rev. Charles Kirkland. Simmons and Hill were also church members.

A fifth victim, Martez Holland, 27 at the time, survived. Terry Holland's nephew, he had reportedly been in the back of the truck at the time of the blast and was able to jump off. He was unconscious until paramedics arrived. He was initially hospitalized at the N.C. Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill with third-degree burns over 20 percent of his body. After extensive therapy, pastor Wilson said Sunday that Holland is home and doing well.

As the anniversary date approached, the congregation had rallied, contributing not only financially but providing physical labor -- clearing land adjacent to the church parking lot, constructing swings and setting up picnic tables, a cross and benches for a chapel area.

Holland Park might have been named for Terry Holland, but it honors the memory of all four members, said Ken Jefferson Jr., pastor of student ministries.

The project is about 75 percent complete, he said, with a few elements remaining to be done, including a swingset for smaller children, one for larger youth, and a basketball court.

Meanwhile, the tragedy, which made national news as one of the worst fireworks accidents in U.S. history, contributed to several changes in the industry.

While the explosion was ruled an accident by the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, Ocracoke officials chose not to hold a fireworks display this Independence Day, and legislation has placed new restrictions on safety for pyrotechnic operators.

Sen. Don Davis, a Snow Hill Democrat, was a proponent of the increased safety law which went into effect Feb. 1. It called for technicians to be 21 or older, to earn a three-year operating license by completing a training course, passing a written exam and paying $200.

Due to the short turnaround time before this July 4, legislators approved a temporary 30-day license this year, with an exception for operators, 21 and older, who had performed six permitted N.C. fireworks displays in the past decade.