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The Day the Earth Caved In: An American Mining Tragedy Paperback – April 14, 2009

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The Day the Earth Caved In: An American Mining Tragedy + Fire Underground: The Ongoing Tragedy Of The Centralia Mine Fire + Centralia  (PA)  (Images of America)
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In 1962, an underground fire began in a large abandoned mine in Centralia, Pennsylvania. The fire continued to simmer but apparently posed no threat to the townspeople whose homes and recreation areas sat on the ground above the mine shaft. Then in 1981, a 12-year-old boy was sucked through the weakened ground in his backyard into a muddy, steaming cauldron, barely escaping alive. When investigation revealed the full extent of the danger, the town and its residents were launched on a long, frustrating odyssey that drew in federal and state governments, the national media, hordes of attorneys, and large corporations. Quigley, the granddaughter and great-granddaughter of Centralia miners, is a former business reporter for the Miami Herald. In her engrossing saga, government agencies at both the federal and state levels are shown as irresponsible and craven, and the greed of corporations is sickening. But the townspeople, striving for economic justice while clinging to the hope of saving their threatened community, wear the mantel of nobility. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

“Reads like fiction but inspires outrage in the muckraking tradition of Lincoln Steffens and Rachel Carson.”—New York Times

“A real-life epic of brutally indifferent government, greedy corporations, and the unlikely heroes. You’ll feel enraged to know the truth of what happened in our mountains and proud of your fellow Americans who took on Goliath.”—John Passacantando, executive director, Greenpeace USA

“A thorough and often passionate account . . . The Day the Earth Caved In shines.”—Washington Post Book World

“Fascinating . . . [an] excellent study.”—Denver Post

“First-rate research and journalism.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“It is quite a story.”— Wall Street Journal

Quigley’s riveting account of the nation’s most devastating mine fire will change the way you think about so-called natural disasters, and the emotions we attach to the places we call home. This is an extraordinary book.” —Sean Wilentz, author of The Rise of American Democracy

“If you can imagine a book that combines the gritty dignity of How Green Was My Valley with the muckraking of Silent Spring, then you have some sense of this deeply affecting work.”—Samuel G. Freedman, author of Upon This Rock

“Joan Quigley, the granddaughter of coal miners, has combined meticulous reporting and personal passion to bring us this important book — one that illuminates an underground blaze that many corporate and government officials sought to smother and conceal.” —Gay Talese, author of A Writer’s Life

“Quigley takes this complex story involving politics, science and history and weaves it into something that informs and entertains.”—Lexington Herald-Leader

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (April 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812971302
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812971309
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,119,064 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Beauchamp on August 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I first found out about the underground coal mine fire at Centralia PA and the devastation of the town above it while surfing the Web, looking for information about urban ruins. The photos I saw on various websites were eerie: where a small town once stood there was now only streets and sidewalks. A sliver of a dwelling that had once been part of a string of row houses stood alone, propped up on either side by brick chimney-like buttresses that provided the support that other dwellings, now torn down, once gave. Steam rose from cracks in a twisted and abandoned highway or from patches of scorched earth surrounded by dead vegetation. While these photos were very creepy and intriguing, I didn't stop to read much about the story of Centralia; I was on a quest to find out more about abandoned sites closer to my home in New York State's Hudson Valley region that I have seen for myself and visited: the Lente house, Bannerman's Island Arsenal, and the Cornish Estate.

Years later but a few weeks ago I happened across the last five minutes of a segment on C-SPAN's Book TV that caught my attention. Joan Quigley, author of "The Day the Earth Caved In" was talking about the Centralia mine fire. From the little bit I saw of the show it was clear that there was much more to the Centralia story than what I gathered from the photos on the Web. I eagerly wrote down the name of the book and its author so that the next time I visited Amazon I could order it. After adding the book to my shopping cart, Amazon suggested that I also might want to check out David DeKok's "Unseen Danger", an earlier volume on the same subject. I ordered both.

As chance would have it, "Unseen Danger" arrived about a week before "The Day the Earth Caved In" and now, having read both books, I'm glad it did.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Frank J. Konopka VINE VOICE on May 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Having been born and raised in Mount Carmel, which is about 4 miles west of Centralia, I can claim some familiarity with this tragic series of events. As I am now the solicitor for the Borough of Centralia (or what's left of it), I know many of the people written about in the book. There are only about 15 or so folks remaining in the town, but these are people that absolutely refuse to leave. It's almost impossible to have all of the borough council offices filled, so next month we are going to court in Columbia County to receive permission to reduce the number of required council members. In the hard coal region, there are numerous people who were born, married from, lived in, and were buried from, the same house. Centralia, like most small hard coal towens, was an extremely close-knit community where everyone seemed to know everyone else, and everyone else's busines. As an example, in Mount Carmel when I was in high school in the early '60s, there were about 6 or 7000 people, but a letter addressed to my parents, with just their names and no address, would be correctly delivered to our house.That close-knit feeling in Centralia was shattered when Frank Jurgill (a high school classmate of mine), came running from the town dump in 1962 to announce that it was on fire. I take no stand on how the fire started. I know that Dave DeKok, whom I knew when he was a reporter here, and whose book I also own, disputes how the fire began. That really isn't the point of the book, rather it is what happened after the fire was discovered that is the heart of the book. These were folks who refused to leave their family homes until there was so much danger that they just had to go.Read more ›
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By beezneez on April 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I would not have thought that the story of a coal mine fire could be so fascinating, but Joan Quigley could probably bring excitement to any subject she chose to explore. Her portrayal of the characters and events involved is vivid and compelling, as is her scrupulous research. Highly recommended.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By M. Kaplan on April 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
First-time author Joan Quigley tells the compelling story of the nation's worst mine fire and what it left in its wake; the book is an enjoyable read and a remarkable story. Extensive and meticulous reporting (plus Quigley's personal connection to the town of Centralia, Penn.--her grandfather and great-grandfather were miners there) allowed the author to craft a gripping story that reads like a novel. Through the residents of Centralia--fiercely holding onto their burning town--we move through the horrific drama and learn about the government's gross mishandling of the situation. I was quickly drawn into the narrative and would recommend this book to anyone interested in a well-told, (unbelievably) true story.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By John T. Queenan on April 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
In 1981 Carrie Wolfgang sees a cluster of federal officials across the street. Centralians were always suspicious of government strangers ever since the coal mine fire plagued their town 19 years ago. She calls her daughter, Flo Dombrowski, who dispatches her 12-year-old son Todd to investigate. Todd finds his cousin Erik fixing a flat tire on his motorcycle in Carrie's backyard. Todd, lingering with Erik, sees a wisp of smoke coming from the ground. Ever curious, he moves in closer. The ground caves in and swallows up Todd. So begins Joan E. Quigley's account of the disastrous Centralia, PA coal mine fire.

This is not just the story of a coal mine fire, but the tale of the tenacious people who survived the frequent heartbreaking woes of a coal-mining community. The chronic oppression caused by the uncontrollable demon of fire, the insidious and relentless pollution, and the helplessness of the people facing the governmental bureaucracy begs the question of why they remained loyal to this town. Out of this morass, strong characters emerge who provide leadership in the struggle to save the town. Joan Quigley, an award-winning journalist, has interviewed the principals and examined the evidence to present this compelling book. She digs deep into the human spirit tested by this disaster.
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