On the 35th anniversary of the Buffalo Creek disaster, we remember with great sorrow the 125 innocent men, women and children who lived their lives in harm’s way and lost them due to the recklessness of Pittston Coal Company.
We will never forget the unethical engineering that brought millions of gallons of water crashing down Buffalo Creek that morning of Feb. 26, 1972. We are still deeply embarrassed at the the shameless excuses from some of the region’s politicians. And we remain horrified at the outright lie, expressed by Pittston, that the disaster was an “Act of God.”
It would be a disservice to the restless ghosts of Buffalo Creek if we did not also remember those who continue to live in harms way. They are the ones who, even now, listen with fear at the sound of rain, and who still stand to lose their lives from the continued recklessness of the coal business.
Its not as if there were no alternatives. Spending only one dollar per ton of coal more on dry filter presses would have avoided the problem.
Like other great disasters of the past century -- from the Titanic to Katrina -- Buffalo Creek has become a potent symbol of what happens when a technological society loses its humanity.
The victims of Buffalo Creek stand witness, like Jacob Marley’s ghost, reminding the modern coal industry that their business is not only about money. As Marley said: ‘Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were, all, my business.”
Marley was already in chains. But his warning saved Scrooge and, if the politicians and the coal executives would only listen, a warning from the ghosts of Buffalo Creek may yet save innocent lives in the coal fields of Appalachia.