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After the Disaster: Re-creating Community and Well-Being at Buffalo Creek since the N ...

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After the Disaster:


Gunner McGruff and Ground Zero, Buffalo Creek, West Virginia, March 1, 2000

Is this “ground zero”? Is this where it all began? Is this the origin of what has been called one of the worst “man-made” disasters in the United States in the past one hundred years, at least prior to the terrorist attacks of 2001 on the World Trade Center and the collapse of the levees that were supposed to protect New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina in 2005?

This disaster occurred when an impoundment near a coal mine collapsed after days of heavy rain at approximately 8:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, February 26, 1972. Thousands of tons of oily, black mine waste water, sludge, and suspended debris flushed down through sixteen coal camps. At least 125 people were killed (seven of the bodies never were recovered), as many as 1,000 other people were injured, more than 500 homes were destroyed, and an estimated 4,000 people were left temporarily homeless. In contrast to most disasters that involve coal mines, many of the dead and injured in this case were the wives and children of coal miners, rather than the miners themselves.