City on Fire: The Explosion That Devastated a Texas Town and Ignited a Historic Legal Battle

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HarperCollins, Jan 1, 2004 - History - 320 pages
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A "remarkable," "incendiary" and "heart-wrenching" account of America's worst industrial disaster and the landmark legal case it spawned.

On a day that dawned with brisk breezes, a clear sky, and perfect temperatures, the small town of Texas City suddenly found itself facing the greatest industrial disaster in the most industrialized nation on the planet. And, in time, the survivors of that all-American city found themselves wondering if their own government had delivered them into this hell on earth.In 1947, Texas City was experiencing boom times, bristling with chemical and oil plants, built to fuel Europe's seemingly endless appetite for the raw materials needed to rebuild its ruined cities. When an explosion ripped through its docks, the effect was cataclysmic. Thousands of people were wounded or killed, the fire department was decimated, planes were shot out of the sky, and massive ocean-bound freighters disintegrated. The blast knocked people to their knees in Galveston, ten miles away; broke windows in Houston, forty miles away; and rattled a seismograph in Denver, Colorado. Chaos reigned, the military was scrambled, the FBI launched investigations-and ordinary citizens turned into heroes.

For months on end, the brave residents of what had once been an average American town struggled to restore their families, their homes, their lives. And they also struggled to confront another welling nightmare-the possibility that the tragedy that almost erased their city from existence might have been caused by the very government they thought would protect them. CITY ON FIRE is a painstakingly researched saga of one of the most profound but forgotten disasters in Americanhistory. The Texas City Disaster was a searing, apocalyptic event that had an enormous ripple effect for millions of people around the world.

It changed the way Americans respond to disasters and the way people viewed the American government-the Texas City Disaster opened the door for average Americans to confront their government and its leaders in the nation's courts of law. It was the first time that the United States of America was named as a defendant in a case that, after a series of dizzying twists and turns, would end up in the nation's highest court.

Ultimately, the story of Texas City is a story of courage, humanity, bravery, and a painful quest for justice. It is the story of ordinary Americans behaving in extraordinary ways-and serving as role models for dignity and grace.

  

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Hundreds of people were killed when a ship containing ammonium nitrate caught on fire and then exploded in Texas City, Texas in 1947. Read full review

Selected pages

Contents

Section 1
3
Section 2
8
Section 3
10
Section 4
20
Section 5
22
Section 6
32
Section 7
35
Section 8
42
Section 22
147
Section 23
157
Section 24
173
Section 25
174
Section 26
190
Section 27
199
Section 28
205
Section 29
208

Section 9
47
Section 10
56
Section 11
57
Section 12
68
Section 13
70
Section 14
73
Section 15
82
Section 16
109
Section 17
110
Section 18
112
Section 19
118
Section 20
126
Section 21
134
Section 30
208
Section 31
208
Section 32
208
Section 33
209
Section 34
218
Section 35
224
Section 36
230
Section 37
252
Section 38
258
Section 39
261
Section 40
265
Section 41
281
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About the author (2004)

Minutaglio graduated from Columbia University in 1978, with a B.A. in history and an M.S. in Journalism. He has worked as a special writer for The Dallas Morning News since 1983.

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