GRANITEVILLE, SC (WFXG) - The whistle blasts of the trains running through the heart of Graniteville often remind Vicki McCarthy of the morning eight years ago when a poisonous gas forced her and her family out of their home.
"Kind of wrapped everybody's face up with wet towels and we were loading up to leave and the people with Hazmat suits were literally walking door to door at this point asking if everyone was leaving," McCarthy, said.
At the time, McCarthy lived two blocks away from the spot where tons of liquid chlorine spread into the air.
She was forced to leave for home for two weeks along with more than 5,000 other people.
"Just that little bit of an impact of me being outside for two minutes, the rest of the day my eyes and throat began to burn," said McCarthy.
For her, the health effects were short lived because the wind blew the toxic air away from her home.
"We were so blessed because it was a matter of if it blows east or west, so we were able to survive."
But others were unable to survive, nine people were killed and hundreds more were hospitalized.
Now, many people in the area have serious lung problems according to officials with the Graniteville Recovery and Chlorine Epidemiology Study.
"You rarely saw a funeral in Graniteville prior to that and then you just notice every other week, there's a funeral. Is it associated with the chemical spill?" asked McCarthy.
Even though the spill was eight years ago, McCarthy says when you look at the businesses that are now boarded up you can see the mill town is still scarred.
"Since the chemical spill and the businesses going away, I don't see as many neighbors as I used to. We lived before it and it was a small town and now it's kind of an empty small town and I'd like to see it continue to grow."
McCarty says she believes Graniteville will recover one day to look like it did before the spill. She is participating in health studies the city offers.