Praise for The Day the Earth Caved In:
“[Quigley’s] scene-by-scene narrative reads like fiction but inspires outrage in the muckraking tradition of Lincoln Steffens and Rachel Carson.”
The New York Times
"[A]s a piece of explanatory journalism, The Day The Earth Caved In shines."
Washington Post Book World
“It is quite a story.”
The Wall Street Journal
“The descendant of Centralia, Penn. miners, former Miami Herald reporter
Quigley reveals the moral complexities and political machinations
surrounding the underground fires that virtually destroyed this
small Pennsylvania town.
She begins in 1981, when a schoolboy slipped into a Centralia
sinkhole and was nearly killed by the underground heat and toxic
fumes. The narrative then retreats to Memorial Day 1962, when a
blaze that began at the town dump moved underground to ignite the
underlying seams of coal. The ensuing decades brought ineffectual
remedies, illness, public outcry, political shape-shifting and
finger-pointing. Locals emerged as heroes, heretics, Cassandras
and curmudgeons. Villains appeared, too – mostly, in the author’s
view, Reagan-era functionaries trying to reconcile their political
philosophy (government is bad) with Centralia’s poisonous and fiery
realities. Quigley records Gov. Richard Thornburgh’s highly emotional
1981 visit and blasts feckless Interior Secretary James Watt repeatedly.
The media both helped and hurt. People magazine wanted
– and got – a photograph of a local man frying eggs over one of
the vents; Nightline swooped into town in the early 1980s;
but then the press went home and forgot about it all. Quigley conducted
hundreds of hours of interviews with residents and read alpine
stacks of government reports, newspapers and magazines as part
of her massive research effort. She sadly records the split in
the community between those who wanted the government to pay for
relocation and those who intended to stay no matter what. Ultimately,
the town voted for relocation, the federal government provided
some funds and most of the principals in the story moved on. But
not all: About a dozen resolute folk remain, while tongues of fire
continue to lick below.First-rate research and journalism combine
to tell a sad, often infuriating tale."
Kirkus Reviews (starred
“In 1962, an underground fire began
in a large abandoned mine in Centralia, Pennsylvania. The fire
continued to simmer but apparently posed no threat to the townspeople
whose homes and recreation areas sat on the ground above the mine
shaft. Then in 1981, a 12-year-old boy was sucked through the weakened
ground in his backyard into a muddy, steaming cauldron, barely
escaping alive. When investigation revealed the full extent of
the danger, the town and its residents were launched on a long,
frustrating odyssey that drew in federal and state governments,
the national media, hordes of attorneys, and large corporations.
Quigley, the granddaughter and great-granddaughter of Centralia
miners, is a former business reporter for the Miami Herald.
In her engrossing saga, government agencies at both the federal
and state levels are shown as irresponsible and craven, and the
greed of corporations is sickening. But the townspeople, striving
for economic justice while clinging to the hope of saving their
threatened community, wear the mantle of nobility.”
|"The Day the Earth Caved
In: An American Mining Tragedy is a meticulous account of
the tangled saga of hometown, history and Reagan-era governmental
red tape. Author Joan Quigley, a former business reporter for
the Miami Herald, and a descendant of coal miners, uses
her own family history to illustrate the stubborn determination
of those who have toiled in the anthracite coal region of Appalachia."
|“’Scores of journalists,’ Quigley writes, ‘descended on Centralia, grappling for insight into why this town, with no stoplight or movie theater, no restaurant or grocery store, exercised such a hold over its residents.’ Her explanation: five-generation clans proud of their homes, their children, the town their immigrant ancestors settled. In a word, community.
Quigley had entree to that community: Her grandfather and great-grandfather had been miners there, and she first saw the fire herself when she was 15. She introduces us to Tom Larkin, a seminarian turned short-order cook in search of his life's purpose, which became leading Centralia's activist band; Catharene Jurgill, who joined those activists at the cost of her marriage; Helen Womer, whose loyalty to the town made her its last fierce holdout. Then there are Dave and Eileen Lamb, whose asthmatic daughter, Rachel, sickened by the gases, ended up on oxygen. Governor Richard Thornburgh's visit to the family's modest row house is the book's most poignant scene.
Quigley, a former Miami Herald reporter, weaves these stories into an environmental expose.”
“And that is really what Quigley's excellent study, The Day the Earth Caved In, is about. It takes up several fascinating topics -- among them the history of 19th Century mining, the thermodynamics of mine fires, the politics of coal -- but her central question is: ‘Why did so many residents want to stay in Centralia, even as toxic fumes and cave-ins beset part of the community they loved?’
The answer is complex, but Quigley, a former Miami Herald reporter and descendant of Centralia miners, unravels it. It involves individual, family and town histories. If it were strictly about the fire and its politics -- i.e., dodging responsibility for paying to douse it -- her book could be a third less long, but would be half as interesting."
“This book should be required reading for residents of those homes in its path, and for the rest of us curious about how the fire won.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Quigley takes this complex
story involving politics, science and history and weaves it into
something that informs and entertains."
Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader
“The Day the Earth Caved In is at once a horrifying
tale of corporate and political callousness and an inspiring story
of how ordinary Americans banded together to save the only town
they ever knew. Quigley’s riveting account of the nation’s most
devastating mine fire will change the way you think about so-called
natural disasters, and the emotions we attach to the places we
call home. This is an extraordinary book.”
Sean Wilentz, author
of The Rise
of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln
|“Joan Quigley, the granddaughter
of coal miners, has combined meticulous reporting and personal
passion to bring us this important book - one that illuminates
an underground blaze that many corporate and government officials
sought to smother and conceal."
Gay Talese, author
of A Writer's
“In “The Day The Earth Caved In,” Joan Quigley has written both
a requiem and an indictment. It is a requiem for the destruction
of her coal-mining hometown and an indictment of the corporate
and political leaders who let that tragedy happen. If you can imagine
a book that combines the gritty dignity of “How Green Was My Valley”
with the muckraking of “Silent Spring,” then you have some sense
of this deeply affecting work.”
Samuel G. Freedman, author
She Was: My Search for My Mother’s Life
tale of good battling evil is a real-life epic of corrupt
John Passacantando, Executive Director,
government officials, murderous corporations and the unlikely heroes
fight for their basic human rights. It's all here; made in America.
feel enraged to know the truth of what happened in our mountains
and proud of
your fellow Americans who took on Goliath."
“Joan Quigley’s work-in-progress … is a multilayered and passionate
study of a community in flames: the old mining town of Centralia,
Pennsylvania, which sits atop an underground fire that has been
burning for more than four decades. After the fire nearly took
the life of a young boy, the community mobilized in an attempt
to force the government to take action on “an environmental calamity
rivaling Love Canal.” Quigley, a daughter of Centralia, offers
a haunting depiction of small town neighbors struggling against
a powerful industry and a distant government - and finally, against
one another - in their attempt to cope with an environmental catastrophe
and the savage backwash of industrial change.”
Judges’ Citation, The J. Anthony Lukas
Work-in-Progress Award (2005), administered
by Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the Nieman
Foundation at Harvard University.