Saturday marks the 80th anniversary of the Hindenburg disaster, where the German airship caught fire and went down in flames over Manchester Township, New Jersey. Although the death toll was fairly small by modern standards with only 36 fatalities, it was the first time that a major news network caught the accident on film, making it one of the most iconic disasters in America’s history. Here are histories of this and other notable U.S. disasters:
Part history, part technical evaluation, Regis examines how and why the disaster occurred and why it’s possible that it will eventually happen again.
2. Meltdown: A Race Against Nuclear Disaster at Three Mile Island: A Reporter’s Story by Wilborn Hampton
Hampton’s eyewitness account of the nuclear meltdown that occurred at Three Mild Island, just off the coast of Harrisburg, PA in March of 1979 is a gripping tale of human error, tragedy, and America’s struggle to create inexpensive and sustainable energy.
3. Red Light to Starboard: Recalling the Exxon Valdez Disaster by Angela Day
On March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, Alaska, spilling over 10 million gallons of crude oil into its waters and destroying plant and animal life in its wake. Day’s book investigates the cover-ups, secrets, and missteps that led to this massive disaster.
4. The Great Peshtigo Fire: An Eyewitness Account by The Reverend Peter Pernin
On October 8, 1871, the deadliest wildfire in American history was born when smaller, intentionally-set fires flamed out of control and burned nearly 2,000 square miles of Peshtigo, Wisconsin, killing over 1,500 people. Pernin, a local pastor, wrote this short eyewitness account of what happened to his community.
5. The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough
On May 31, 1889, a hastily-built dam in Johnstown, Pennsylvania burst, flooding the town and killing over 2,000 people; it’s the worst dam break in American history, and McCullough tells the story of engineering hubris and the devastation it caused.
6. Fire on the Horizon: The Untold Story of the Gulf Oil Disaster by Tom Shroder and John Konrad
On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded off the coast of Mississippi, killing 11, injuring 17, and spilling over 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, creating the largest marine oil spill in history. Konrad and Shroder investigate the cause and recount the horror of the event through interviews with those who experienced the disaster first-hand.
7. City on Fire: The Explosion that Devastated a Texas Town and Ignited a Historic Legal Battle by Bill Minutaglio
On April 16, 1947, ships containing ammonium nitrate exploded off the coast of Texas City, Texas, killing nearly 600 people. Minutaglio explores the mystery surrounding the cause and the legal battle that ensued.
America has had its share of disasters, and learning about them is the first step to helping prevent their happening again.
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