Some Disaster History

Just before leaving Pennsylvania, we stopped for a couple of days in Somerset so that we could visit the Flight 93 Memorial near Shanksville.  The memorial is very well done with a modern building on a hilltop overlooking the actual crash site.  Blended into the walk up to the building is a dark path that marks the portion of the flight path just before the crash, at the end of which is a large stone marking where the plane went down.  They have a long, winding path going down to the site that gives a visitor time to reflect on what happened here, the heroism and terror the passengers had to feel in those final moments.  We had visited the Oklahoma City/Murrah Building bombing memorial last year and came away with a similar somber feeling.

The next day we visited Johnston, the sight of the Johnstown flood of 1889.  The town lies downriver from what was an earthen dam, erected by the U.S. and eventually purchased by a small group of wealthy people, including Andrew Carnegie and some of his steel associates, who had homes around the lake created by the dam, Lake Conemaugh.  On May 31, 1889, due to poor maintenance of the dam and an unusually heavy rain,the dam gave way.  The volume of water roared down the valley with such force that several towns were literally erased from the Earth.  It took 57 minutes for it to reach Johnston, during which efforts to warn the citizens of the coming deluge were either too late or ignored.  In addition to water, the current also picked up trees, boulders, rail cars, houses, and anything else in its’ way.  This melange slammed into Johnston and more than 2,200 people died as a result, which was the single most lethal disaster of its’ time, only surpassed by the Galveston hurricane and 911. Another very somber day for us.

We left Somerset, driving west and stopped in Columbus, Ohio, to visit the state capitol.  The capitol building and grounds are very beautiful and well done, one of the nicest we have seen so far.  We were fortunate that both the House and Senate were in session, so we were able to sit in for a bit. Outside, they have a serene garden commemorating those Ohio military members lost in battle.

Continuing on our journey, we went through Indiana (not stopping at the capitol due to time constraint – next time), Illinois and up into Wisconsin.  We stopped to see friends, Bob and Karen in Stanley, near Eau Claire.  They have a lovely home in the woods on a beautiful lake.  As tempted as we were to tell them we weren’t going to leave, we did continue on, arriving in Detroit Lakes on May 8th.  We had some minor maintenance done on our home, then out to Woodland Trails where we will be until mid-September.

So now we have been “home” for about 5 weeks and, truthfully, we love it here.  We get to DL (Detroit Lakes) frequently, with numerous side trips to Fargo, Bemidji, Fergus Falls and other surrounding towns.  Each one has its’ own identity and special reason to visit that we look forward to enjoying.