The Grand Ole Oplin – known simply as Oplin to most ACU students – is becoming a popular place for students to go on Friday nights. Based in the Oplin Community Center, the Grand Ole Oplin hosts a weekly dance open to all comers.
Located 25 miles southeast of Abilene, Oplin seems almost impossible to find, hidden down long, dark country roads. Despite this, the dance sees about 100-150 people show up every week, and even more for their events.
This past Friday, Oplin saw a much larger group of people than usual, with around 200 college students crowding the community center. Students started to show up in large groups around 8 p.m. and gathered in the corner of the dance hall normally claimed by ACU students. Conversation revolved around Sing Song, the beginning of classes and groaning about homework.
Students showing up around and after 8:30 p.m. brought disturbing news with them: they had to detour around a severe car wreck just past Abilene Regional Airport on TX-36.
Haley Conaway, junior psychology major from Plano, drove past the crash about 20 minutes after it happened, at about 8:45 p.m.
“We thought it was probably a head-on collision, but a police car was blocking the view,” Conaway said.
While it was not much of a concern at the beginning, as the night went on more and more students started to worry about who was involved in the crash.
“It wasn’t until we left Oplin around 10:30 p.m. that people started texting and realizing that ACU students were involved,” Conaway said.
Social media became the bridge of communication between campus and Oplin. As the first news of the crash came out, more statuses and tweets were posted. By the end of the night the atmosphere was more troubled than usual. Everyone was comparing what little pieces of information they had to figure out if they knew who was involved in the crash. No names had been released by the end of the night at Oplin, leaving students with worries about their friends and classmates as they headed home.
Even before any names were released, students were praying and checking on the safety of their friends. At about midnight, the Optimist reported that Lindsey Smith, junior Ad/PR major from New Braunfels, died on the scene. Five other students were injured in the accident; two of them are still being treated in Hendrick Medical Center. The six students were on their way to Oplin for a night of dancing.
Katie Greene, Cara Kramer and Mark Smith contributed to this report.