Coal Crimes of Buffalo Creek
May 26, 2011
Let us imagine that one day a natural disaster hits your town, you watched everyone you know lose their homes, and for some, their lives. Your life view most likely would be skewed for some time, but who could you blame? Nature? God? While tragic, an act of nature or god most often carries no great amount of blame with it. This is not the case in the Buffalo Creek incident however. It is important to note that the people of the Buffalo Creek area were deeply traumatized by this event, and their trust violated by those responsible for this incident.
The Buffalo Creek incident is one of the most widely studied disasters in the U.S. and as Kai T. Erikson writes in his prologue to Everything in Its Path “It was a fairly contained disaster, as such things go, having taken place on a scale small enough to allow one to see it whole,”. There were a number of variables leading into that day, the day the “dam” gave way, and throughout the course of this paper I intend to trace the pattern back to the source of this disaster, the creator of a situation that certainly does deserve blame. What it comes down to in the aftermath of this disaster is whether to cast the guilt on the coal company that created the environment for this disaster, or the people of the valley who some might say had failed to save themselves. The coal company would trivialize the loss that the people of this valley community had undergone and try to label the flood an “act of God”. (Stern) I however, soundly took the side of these mountain people as I read about the coal industry’s molestation of their land, and the destruction of WV life as they had once known it.
The coal industry creeped its way into the lives of West Virginians over the better part of a century. Although coal had always been rich in West Virginia’s land and it was know for sometime to be that way, coal companies did not gain access to...
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