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One Saturday morning in February 1972, an impoundment dam owned by the Pittston Coal Company burst, sending a 130 million gallon, 25 foot tidal wave of water, sludge, and debris crashing into southern West Virginia's Buffalo Creek hollow. It was one of the deadliest floods in U.S. history. 125 people were killed instantly, more than 1,000 were injured, and over 4,000 were suddenly homeless. Instead of accepting the small settlements offered by the coal company's insurance offices, a few hundred of the survivors banded together to sue. This is the story of their triumph over incredible odds and corporate irresponsibility, as told by Gerald M. Stern, who as a young lawyer and took on the case and won.
The 1977 Sorokin Award–winning story of Buffalo Creek in the aftermath of a devastating flood. On February 26, 1972, 132-million gallons of debris-filled muddy water burst through a makeshift mining-company dam and roared through Buffalo Creek, a narrow mountain hollow in West Virginia. Following the flood, survivors from a previously tightly knit community were crowded into trailer homes with no concern for former neighborhoods. The result was a collective trauma that lasted longer than the individual traumas caused by the original disaster. Making extensive use of the words of the people themselves, Erikson details the conflicting tensions of mountain life in general—the tensions between individualism and dependency, self-assertion and resignation, self-centeredness and group orientation—and examines the loss of connection, disorientation, declining morality, rise in crime, rise in out-migration, etc., that resulted from the sudden loss of neighborhood.

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