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Posts Tagged ‘Slavik Churches Johnstown PA’

 

The story of this flood is compelling.  It has so many dramatic and tragic elements.  The exclusive South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, with members like Andrew Carnegie and Andrew Melon, juxstaposed with the thousands of immigrant Johnstown families, working in the mills, who died because of the millionaire’s neglect of a dam that was part of their “playground”.  

 

Wall of Debris - Johnstown Flood Museum

Wall of Debris - Johnstown Flood Museum

 

 

Then, there’s the sheer horror.  The suffering and death people faced in the path of the 40-60 foot wave, that swept them and everything in its’ path away. A night of agony, as people who were trapped in tons of debris (a 45-acre mass, with railroad cars and homes and broken parts of bridges, animals, people, barbed wire) piled up against the Stone Railroad Bridge. It was an oil-soaked jam and caught fire.  Everyone trapped in it was burned alive, and those who survived had to listen to their cries and screams as they died throughout the night. 

A survivor’s tale, recorded when he was 92 years, is beyond a Hollywood movie.  He tells of leaping from the top of one house to another, as he’s swept along in the torrent.Johnstown Flood National Memorial

Johnstown Flood National Memorial

 

Both the Johnstown Flood Museum in Johnstown and the National Park Site Memorial at the dam location are worth a visit.

But the biggest and best surprise of the visit here was the amazing Heritage Discovery Center. My son makes gentle fun at me for loving museums with lots of audio-visual aids.  This museum was the mother-lode.  You become part of the immigrant experience as soon as you walk through the door.  You choose to take on the character of a real historical person, and you re-live their immigrant experience. From the time you punch in your card at Ellis Island, and are responded to personally from the immigration officer, and arrive at the train station in Johnstown.  

Sitting in the train station (all our characters appear) - Heritage Discovery Center

Sitting in the train station (all our characters appear) - Heritage Discovery Center

Sights and smells, coal mine, church, village street – I’ll just say it’s the most fun, interesting and thought-provoking interactive museums I’ve ever been in.  And, as you leave, after navigating your character’s life and learning about what it was like to be an immigrant in Johnstown a hundred years ago, you turn in your identity card and find out your character’s fate.

To end on a more serious note, the fate of Johnstown seems very precarious.  After the most famous flood of 1889, another flood in 1977 devastated the city.  We heard from local people that it’s unlikely Johnstown will be able to come back, so much infrastructure was damaged or destroyed, and it seems unlikely that businesses will be attracted to this location in the future.

One of the saddest aspects of this is the imminent closing of seven amazing churches in the Cambria City area. Saint Mary’s Byzantine Catholic Church will stay open. There were so many others, Serbian Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Slovakian and Hungarian Catholic Churches to name a few.  

A few pictures from our walk of two-three blocks.  

 

Cambria City Churches (Johnstown) PA

Cambria City Churches (Johnstown) PA

 

 

 

Saint Mary's Byzantine Catholic Church, Cambria City (Johnstown) PA

Saint Mary's Byzantine Catholic Church, Cambria City (Johnstown) PA

 

 

 

Saint Mary's Byzantine Catholic Church, Cambria City (Johnstown) PA

Saint Mary's Byzantine Catholic Church, Cambria City (Johnstown) PA

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