Last Man Out: The Story of the Springhill Mine Disaster

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9780156029575: Last Man Out: The Story of the Springhill Mine Disaster

One evening in late October 1958, the deepest coal mine in North America "bumped"-its rock floors heaved up and smashed into rock ceilings. Most of the men on the shift perished. But nineteen men were trapped alive a mile below the earth's surface, struggling to survive without food, water, light, or fresh air. Almost a week passed without rescue. Hopes of finding life dwindled; then a miracle happened: Rescuers stumbled across a broken pipe that led to the cave of survivors. In the media circus that followed, the survivors' endurance was mythologized and twisted, and the state of Georgia's tourism ploy-inviting the survivors to recuperate on a Georgia beach-turned racist and pitted the miners against each other.

Using long-lost stories and interviews with survivors, Greene has reconstructed an extraordinary drama of their struggle and miraculous rescue.

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Review:

On October 23, 1958, gases from deep within the earth shot skyward, causing entire floors of rock to rise instantly in a coal mine in Springhill, Nova Scotia, trapping 174 men underground. Seventy-five miners never made it out alive. Miraculously, two small groups of miners survived the initial "bump" but were sealed in small caverns deep within the coal. Surrounded by foul air and total darkness, and with precious little food and water, the men vacillated between optimism and hopelessness as they tried to maintain sanity amidst horrific conditions. Above them, fellow miners and rescue workers dug desperately to get them out, clinging to the unwritten Miner's Code that no man shall be left behind. After a week of digging and with hope all but exhausted, they found one group of a dozen miners; a day later seven more men were discovered. Melissa Fay Greene describes this harrowing ordeal in sharp detail, effectively capturing the drama of the event for both the miners trapped below and their distraught families waiting above.

Placing the event into a larger context, Greene describes how it became the first nationally televised disaster, as journalists from all over Canada and the U.S. converged on the small town and camped at the entrance of the mine. After their rescue, the men were the center of media attention, and some of them became instant celebrities (one was chosen as Canada's "Citizen of the Year"; another became a spokesman for 7-Up soda). She also details the bizarre episode in which an assistant to the governor of Georgia tried to spin the disaster into a marketing gimmick to promote tourism. To the segregationist governor's chagrin, one of the rescued miners turned out to be black, presenting him with a potential public relations nightmare. Though her use of fictionalized dialogue between the miners is sometimes distracting, Greene's extensive research brings this remarkable story to life, making Last Man Out an absorbing re-creation of a forgotten episode. --Shawn Carkonen

From the Back Cover:

Trapped a mile below the earth’s surface, with scant hope of rescue, nineteen miners spent over a week without light, drink, food. This is the extraordinary story of their suffering, their courage, and their miraculous rescue.

Advance Praise for Last Man Out
"In Last Man Out, Melissa Fay Greene so captures the experience of being trapped in the absolute night of a failed coal-mine that you can almost see the pale beams of dying headlamps and taste the last sips of coal-laced drinking water. Having shared the experience, a sympathetic reader cannot help but marvel at the absurdity of the disaster's aftermath. This is a fine, harrowing, brutally detailed work that will make you savor daylight in a way you never have—unless of course you're already a coal miner."
--Erik Larsen, author of Isaac's Storm

Praise for Praying for Sheetrock
"A monumental social history with implications that go far beyond the borders of a tiny coastal Georgia county. Through a combination of oral history and interpretive narrative, Greene has created a work of great drama, a chorus of voices that is both disturbing and inspiring."
--The Boston Globe

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Melissa Fay Greene
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Book Description Harcourt, Inc., New York, 2004. Softcover. Book Condition: New. First Harvest Edition. 342 pages. Softcover. New Book. HISTORY. The amazing story of how a lucky, brave band of men survived the worst mining accident of the century. In minute-by-minute detail, the author reconstructs the lives of these nineteen miners, as well as the hopes and fears of their families waiting above ground. (Key Words: History, Mining, Melissa Fay Greene, Mining Accidents, Disasters, Safety). book. Bookseller Inventory # 36585X1

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