Great Stone Walls
by Jacob Kaufman
I was born in Pittsburgh, PA, but raised in a smaller city
70 miles east of the Steel City - Johnstown. As a youth I
remember my sainted grandmother telling and retelling the
story of the Johnstown Flood of 1889.
As I recall, she said the South Fork Dam, located several
miles above the ill-fated Johnstown, was an earthen coffer
that could not hold the deluge of rains than poured from the
skys of late May. The dam gave way and roared down the valley
in a wall of water nearly 20 feet high, sweeping everything
in its deadly path toward an unsuspecting community of Johnstown
and many smaller towns between the Flood City and Pittsburgh.
Thousands of people perished; homes, factories and businsses
washed to a watery and firey oblivion. Why? As my grandmother
told the story no one was warned of the impending disaster
because it was stone-walled. It seems a wealthy group of corporate
business leaders had formed the "Pittsburgh Rod and Gun Club"
that had stocked the dam with a variety of fish for the pleasure
of catching by its members. The Club's interests were placed
above the lives and property of those in Johnstown and beyond.
The carnage was beyond reckoning. Among the dead were around
a thousand victims who were never identified. Their remains
rest in the local cemetery where a plain marker was erected
at the head of each victim's grave. An obelisk towers over
the lonely resting places as a collective monument to the
Much was made of the loss of life, the loss of property and
even the loss of fish that once promised sport to the wealthy
members of the "Pittsburgh Rod and Gun Club." From what
I have studied there was little effort spent by the governor
and legislature to determine any degree of guilt. Inquiries
determined the Flood of 1889 was attributed to an act of God
or at least an act of His hand maiden, Mother Nature. The
blame was thus stone-walled.
Today much ado is being made about the acts of terror comitted
on September 11, 2001. Of course we know who is responsible
for plotting the attacks and for piloting those planes into
the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and into the ground in
western Pennsylvania in an aborted mission that designed for
What is being stone-walled is what is seeping through the
cracks of that wall. Between May and September knowledge of
the attacks were strongly suspected, according to Richard
Butler, of Iraq arms inspection fame, the Administration put
oil and gas pipeline negotiations with the Tailban ahead of
preventing the 9/11 tragedies much like the preservation of
the fish that swam in the South Fork dam water were put ahead
of the vicitms of the Flood.
We now have a second stonewall event. The Administration
has put the economic welfare of Enron fat cats above the well
being of unspecting employees and ordinary stockholders.
Will our national legislators duck and cover to avoid political
fallout from both stone-walled events? Will the Justice Department
whitewash the events as an act of terror in the first instance
and an act of capitalistic greed in the second. Will the result
of inquiries so highy touted now be no more than obscure footnotes
to our history - soon to be forgotten as we press on to other
In my opinion, the answer to my questions is, "I strongly
suspect so." But, then, we shall see.