From the publisher: The first book to examine the rarely-acknowledged Waverly Train Disaster of 1978 – the catastrophic accident that changed America forever and led to the formation of FEMA.
Since Galesburg is a railroad town and I can hear the trains go by my house – most of us in Galesburg can – I was interested in Walk Through Fire. I was in high school when the Waverly Train Disaster happened, and even though my parents are both from Tennessee, I don’t remember hearing anything about it.
Ali was a child in Waverly when the disaster happened. Her parents are physicians who emigrated from the Middle East to Waverly and played critical roles in the one bright spot during the disaster – the triage work that took place in the small local hospital after the explosion. Ali is justifiably proud of them and interested in the disaster, and her personal interest is reflected in the book.
Ali covers a lot of ground. Some of the information did not add much to the story for me as a reader. For example, there is a long part about Union Forces in Tennessee during the Civil War and the laying of tracks by Black laborers, and the information about what caused the disaster was very detailed. But Ali really cares about the town and its people, she knows many of the survivors, and her empathy for the people of Waverly really shines through. I can tell she did a lot of research and conducted a lot of interviews. She describes the terrible burns that people suffered with compassion and her own medical knowledge as a doctor.
I actually feel better about the unknown cargo on trains coming through Galesburg each night after reading this book. A lot of mistakes were made that led to the Waverly explosion, by the railroad and by local law enforcement because they had no idea how dangerous the situation is. A full investigation led to a number of changes to regulations and standards and to the creation of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
I listened to the author read much of the book. She’s not a professional reader, and some of her phrasing was a little odd. However, her own passion for the subject kept me going.
If you live near trains or are interested in how disasters shaped our lives for the better by prompting safety changes, you might want to read Walk Through Fire.
The Galesburg Public Library owns Walk Through Fire in print and as a Playaway audiobook.
From the publisher: A fascinating look at Walt Disney’s last, unfinished project and the controversy that surrounded it, including the budding environmental movement that made sure the resort never saw the light of day.
I’m a huge fan of Disneyland, Disney World, Disney movies, and their creator, Walt Disney. Walt Disney revolutionized animated films and theme parks. He truly was an American genius. (And I think he’d be appalled at some of the things being done in his name today.) When I saw a book was coming out about his attempts to build a Disney ski resort destination, I wanted to read it.
I’m afraid to say I did not find the entire book to be “fascinating,” no matter what the blurb says. Parts of the book I did indeed find fascinating, but I think this book could have been a great essay. The book appears to have been exhaustively researched. There are 18 pages of footnotes, a 2 page bibliography, and a 7 page index. There is no doubt that the authors did indeed find the subject fascinating.
The book opens just three months before Walt Disney’s death from lung cancer in December 1966. Right up until the end of his life, he was excited about goals he had for the Disney company. If he had managed to turn California’s Mineral King valley into a Disney resort, it would probably have been amazing. This book tells the story of the environmentalists who were determined to stop the resort from being built. (I got a definite sense that some of the people who already lived in the valley wanted to keep it pristine for themselves. It reminded me of a quote, attributed to Dennis Miller, that I heard my environmentalist brother-in-law repeat more than once: “A developer is someone who wants to build a house in the woods. An environmentalist is someone who already has a house in the woods.”)
I did find parts of the book interesting, and I learned things that I did not know. It’s only about 200 pages (not counting the footnotes and index). If you are attracted to all things Disney, you may want to read Disneyland on the Mountain.
I read an advance reader copy of Disneyland on the Mountain from Netgalley. It is scheduled to be published on September 13, and the Galesburg Public Library will own it.
From the publisher: Remember when there were bugs on your windshield? Ever wonder where they went? We need to act now if we are to help insects survive. Rebugging the Planet explains how we are headed toward “insectageddon” with a rate of insect extinction eight times faster than that of mammals or birds, and gives us crucial information to help all those essential creepy-crawlies flourish once more.