City on Fire: The Forgotten Disaster That Devastated a Town and Ignited a Landmark Legal Battle

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9780060185411: City on Fire: The Forgotten Disaster That Devastated a Town and Ignited a Landmark Legal Battle

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 American history. 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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About the Author:

Bill Minutaglio is the author of the highly acclaimed biography of President George W. Bush, First Son: George W. Bush and the Bush Family Dynasty. He has won numerous national awards and has written for the New York Times, Talk, Outside, the Los Angeles Times, and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist. He lives in the Texas hill country with his two children and his wife, the choreographer Holly Williams.

From Publishers Weekly:

Like the explosions it describes, Minutaglio's account is incendiary reading. Two oceangoing freighters loaded with ammonium nitrate leveled a factory town in 1947. Was it an atomic blast? Terrorism? Judgment Day? The author (First Son: George W. Bush and the Bush Family Dynasty) assembles a harrowing mosaic about a blaze during a time of racial divisions and environmental plundering amid petrochemical companies that virtually ruled Texas City, Tex. He pauses to fill in the manufacturing town's pivotal role in WWII and sketches the principals involved in the gargantuan fire. From a priest beset with apocalyptic visions to a battle-scarred mayor, these and other residents come to life. The impact of the story is marred only by slight gaffes: Minutaglio sometimes switches between past tense and present without clear reason. Nonetheless, this tale is evocatively told. His hard-edged prose brands scores of images on readers' minds: the beheaded statue of Mary; a naked father clutching onto his charred automobile; the longshoreman delivered to the morgue even though he isn't dead; and so many more. The book vividly details the carnage as well as some acts of heroism and selflessness.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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