Students in the front half of the bus were barely hurt. Bill Gower remembers standing dumbfounded next to the tracks, hearing air hiss out of the bus tires, and then climbing back into the bus to carry out a dazed student.
"I wondered where everybody was," he says. "So I started walking down the railroad tracks. Then I think I felt faint and turned around and came back."
A rescue worker said the scene was "worse than a battlefront." Mrs. Beachley, cut slightly and bruised, moved calmly from student to student, alive and dead.
She's no longer certain, but she may have been the one who called Dr. Ira M. Zimmerman, who was at home talking with the mayor. Dr. Zimmerman, whose daughter was on the bus, left immediately for Rockville. The mayor, Richard G. Hawken, spread the news around town.
By the time Dr. Zimmerman arrived, hundreds of rescue workers and Rockville residents with flashlights and lanterns crowded the tracks. He was asked whether he could help identify the dead. He replied: "Well, I brought most of them into the world. I guess I can identify them."
He shined his flashlight on the face of the first student. It was his daughter, Margaret Eva.
As some relatives raced to Rockville, many waited anxiously at home. A list of students who survived circulated around town. Only when a bus carrying the survivors arrived home 4 1/2 hours after the crash did townspeople learn the list was actually those who died.
Williamsport had to borrow hearses from neighboring towns to bring the bodies home. Caskets filled the small chapel adjoining the house of the undertaker, Albert Leaf. He grappled not only with grief but with guilt: His son on the bus had survived.
Nevertheless, the "harried village undertaker," as The Sun described him, arranged all 14 funerals over four days. Six were the same day -- 9 a.m., 10:30, 1 p.m., 2:30, 3:30 and 4:30. More cars than anyone recalls in Williamsport clogged the roads as processions crawled to and from cemeteries.
After the last funeral, six days after the wreck, townspeople gathered one final time for a memorial service in the high school auditorium. Closed since the crash, school resumed the next day.
Mrs. Beachley remembers a "very somber" final two months. "Every class that I had had someone in it who was killed," she says.
The federal Interstate Commerce Commission investigated and blamed both the bus driver and the Baltimore and Ohio railroad. The driver should have stopped at the crossing; that was Washington County school policy. And the crossing by law should have had a watchman until midnight and a safety gate. But the watchman's shift had ended at 10 p.m., an hour and a half before the wreck, and the crossing had no gate.
The driver, Mr. Line -- then in his 30s, now deceased -- was charged with manslaughter. But a grand jury failed to indict him. His license was revoked after investigators discovered earlier driving violations.
The railroad assigned a watchman around-the-clock to the Rockville crossing. Workers promptly built a four-lane bridge (now called Veirs Mill Road, Route 586) over the tracks, and the deadly crossing at Baltimore Road was eliminated.
Heading west toward Williamsport, Baltimore Road now dead-ends at the tracks into three large trash bins and a tall chain-link fence.
Families of the dead and injured students sued the railroad and bus owner. The families were awarded modest amounts, a few thousand dollars at most.
"Of course, I felt badly because I organized the trip," Mrs. Beachley says. "I had taken students on other trips that were very pleasant. But I didn't take any more trips after that."
None of the students, their classmates, or Mrs. Beachley for that matter, was offered any form of counseling.
"We just had to keep going, that's all," says Duward Hose, a student on the bus, now 77 and living in Martinsburg, W.Va. "But I remember it more than I think I should. I wake up at night dreaming about my friends in school, people I liked, who were on that bus."
Not much is planned to commemorate the 60th anniversary. Mayor John Slayman, 62, who lost a cousin in the wreck, says ministers at the seven churches in town will mention it today.
James Hardin, the 59-year-old principal of Williamsport High School, says he'll educate students about the accident this week. Few know anything about it, he says.
The town's Memorial Library stands as the only physical reminder of the tragedy. Built in the two years after the wreck, it is a handsome brick building with four white columns, situated prominently on Williamsport's main street.
Just inside the entrance, on the wall to the left, is a bronze plaque recounting the tragedy.
It concludes: "To the memory of these students this library is dedicated." It then lists the names of the 14 who died too young on a bus trip 60 years ago.