TRAPPED: The 1909 Cherry Mine Disaster

Karen Tintori, Author, K. Tintori, Author
Karen Tintori, Author, K. Tintori, Author . Atria $25 (288p) ISBN 978-0-7434-2194-2
Reviewed on: 07/08/2002
Release date: 09/01/2002
Paperback - 273 pages - 978-0-7434-2195-9
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Tintori, the granddaughter of a mineworker in Cherry, Ill., has brought to life the worst coal mine fire in U.S. history. Although a fortuitous hangover kept her grandfather home on November 13, 1909, out of the 480 men who went to work that day, 259 died underground. "Trading daylight for a future," these workers, chiefly from Italian and Slav immigrant backgrounds, undertook backbreaking and dangerous work in order to provide a better life for their families. Tintori vividly recounts how a small hay fire in a coal car caused overhead timbers to catch fire. The flames spread rapidly, but the call to abandon the mine was not given until 45 minutes later. Drawing on diaries, letters, written accounts of survivors and testimony from the coroner's inquest, a picture emerges of men running through smoky passages in terror. Twelve men went down six times to rescue trapped miners until they, too, were smothered. Particularly heartrending is the author's description of the 21 men who were trapped underground for eight harrowing days after the mine was sealed to smother the fire. They were miraculously discovered and brought up by rescue workers. An independent investigation of the disaster found the coal company to be solely responsible for the loss of life and in violation of the child labor laws (four underage boys, illegally hired, died in the fire). Tintori's engaging prose keeps readers on the edge throughout her story. (Sept.)

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