February 19, 2012

Some families lost more than one child. Photo: Ellie Goldberg, 2005
'Gone at 3:17: The Untold Story of the Worst School Disaster in American History.' David Brown and Michael Wereschagin will talk about their book and answer questions in a free session Saturday February 25 at 3 p.m. at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall, 300 Beechwood Ave., Carnegie.

At 3:17 p.m. on March 18, 1937, a natural gas leak beneath the London Junior-Senior High School in the oil boom town of New London, Texas, created a lethal mixture of gas and oxygen in the school’s basement. The odorless, colorless gas went undetected until the flip of an electrical switch triggered a colossal blast. 

The two-story school, one of the nation’s most modern, disintegrated, burying everyone under a vast pile of rubble and debris. More than 300 students and teachers were killed, and hundreds more were injured. As the seventy-fifth anniversary of the catastrophe approaches, it remains the deadliest school disaster in U.S. history. 

Few, however, know of this historic tragedy, and no book, until now, has chronicled the explosion, its cause, its victims, and the aftermath. Join us as authors David M. Brown and Michael Wereschagin present a talk and question and answer session about their powerful, timely and timeless book...
The authors found the situation 75 years ago in East Texas very much like what is going on in Western Pennsylvania today. Both areas became havens for energy exploration, and the urgency to extract resources -- oil and natural gas in Texas, Marcellus shale gas drilling in Pennsylvania -- is fierce.
Brown insists there's no political element in "Gone ... " but it can be read as "a darn good cautionary tale, that shows you exactly what can happen when you refuse to, or can't, see the dangers that can lie all around you," he says.