Monday marked 132nd Anniversary of the Johnstown Flood.
It happened when the South Fork Dam breached, sending 20 million tons of water rushing 14 miles down the valley at a speed of approximately 40 miles an hour. In all, 2,209 people were killed and 1,600 homes were destroyed.
Richard Burkert, the President of the Johnstown Heritage Association gave us some of the History of the Johnstown Flood Museum. Richard saying: “We developed the current version of the Johnstown Flood Museum as part of the centennial of the Johnstown Flood, in 1989. We’re planning some major upgrades for 2022. The Johnstown Flood was really the biggest single event of that whole post Civil War Period. It was shocking, you have this massive dam bag breaks and wipes out Johnstown, the workers town as the news had it at the time. Over 2,200 men, women and children die. I guess the shocking part of that was the dam was owned by some of the wealthiest men in America, Pittsburgh Industrialists and financiers. Huge news story, and it’s still remembered today, and I think it’s still a relevant story in a lot of ways.”
Burkert saying: “We have a light and sound animated map that shows the route of the flood, different exhibits. And, I guess, really, the most compelling experience you get here is viewing the film we created – ‘The Johnstown Flood’, which actually won the 1989 Academy Award for Best Documentary – Short Subject. There are a lot of interesting stories that come out of the Johnstown Flood. This was the Red Cross’ Clara Barton’s first major peacetime disaster. They had been a battlefield relief organization. And when she left Johnstown five months after the disaster, she was at the height of her fame. A lot of American history runs through Johnstown here.”
Burkert adding: “You know, I think he residents pride themselves on their resiliency, and this is what you see so clearly here when you’re telling the story of the Johnstown Flood. They faced the worst that nature or man could hurl at them and they survived. And literally the day after the flood, they’re joining committees and they’re going to clear up the wreckage, and they’re going g to start raising funds. Now, it took the whole world’s charity, but again, this is kind of a story that Johnstown chooses to honor, and it’s kind of like the myth we live by.”