Early Tuesday morning, I was commenting on the Standard-Times' historic photos and story of the 1977 gas explosion that rocked downtown New Bedford.

Considering the eruptions recently in the Andover and Lawrence areas, the newspaper was asking if similar blasts could happen here. Because of their age, forty-five miles of old gas pipes are being replaced by Eversource locally at a cost of about $95 million  over the next 20 years.

But this opinion piece is more about the aftermath of the detonation of O'Malley's Tavern and the nearly 60 buildings that sustained some damage due to the blow-up. Spinner Publications has done a superb job preserving our history in photos and words, but another area chronicler has an interesting twist on the catastrophe.

There's a 40th anniversary commemoration of the event written by eminent local historian Arthur Motta, who reconstructs the smoldering ruins in a way that puts you on Union Street that frigid January morning. But it's what happened after the explosion that I'm focusing on.

Today, look around the same area, and there's not a trace of the devastation because of the will of local people and groups who decided to rebuild with something bigger and better. Often times, that very will to persevere is the difference between mediocrity and success.

Twenty years after the disaster, ground zero was transformed into a beautiful Whaling National Park that attracts visitors from around the world. That blast destroyed some things, but couldn't extinguish the fire in the spirit of our local people.

That's an important part of the story that we should hang on to.

1977 Gas Explosion on Union Street in New Bedford

Phil Paleologos is the host of the Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at phil@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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