Written by Jason Keeling on February 26, 2011
History is filled with tragic events. Moments characterized by pain, the loss of lives, and human malice or error. These instances compel the public’s attention; they lead us to pause, empathize, and reflect on what’s happened.
But over time, we tend to go about our day-to-days and forget, while those people impacted quietly rebuild their worlds. As for the rest of us, the least we can do is remember, and perhaps be moved to help right a few wrongs.
Hell On Earth
Thirty-nine years ago today, several communities throughout Logan County experienced hell on earth. After the failure of a coal waste impoundment, 132 million gallons of black liquid slurry ripped across the land, destroying most everything in its path, killing 125 individuals, leaving over 1,000 people injured, 4,000 homeless, and causing $50 million in property damage given the destruction of over 500 homes.
Denying our past is no way to establish a better future, and with this in mind, let’s solemnly remember victims of the Buffalo Creek flood.
An Age-Old Pattern
Observe the below records to discover some unsettling details, such as tepid government oversight of the dam prior to its failure, the minimal restitution paid by the responsible company and allowed by state leaders, the pittance of a settlement received by survivors, and the subsequent psychological distress experienced within the Buffalo Creek communities.
These troubling facts are part of an age-old pattern in West Virginia and Appalachia, whereby industrial endeavors are valued above people and places. Even today, some of our prominent political figures seem to be working against environmental protection efforts intended to further shield citizens from harm.
It’s important to remember Buffalo Creek, to recognize the lost, recount the grave costs, and be reminded of our responsibility to promote economic, social and environmental justice.
- Photo Credits: The Herald-Dispatch