St. Louis Post-Dispatch from St. Louis, Missouri on January 20, 2019 · A29
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St. Louis Post-Dispatch from St. Louis, Missouri · A29

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Sunday, January 20, 2019
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A29
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01.20.2019 • Sunday • M 1 ST. LOuIS POST-dISPaTCH • A29NATION BY JAY REEVES associated Press BIRMINGHAM, ALA. • A judge has overturned an Alabama law meant to prevent the removal of Confederate monuments from public property, rul- ing the act infringed on the rights of citizens in a mostly black city who are “repulsed” by a memorial in a city park. The 10-page ruling issued late Mon- day by Jefferson County Circuit Judge Michael Graffeo said a 2017 state law barring the removal or alteration of his- torical monuments wrongly violated the free speech rights of local communities. The law can’t be enforced, Graffeo ruled, but the state attorney general’s office said it would appeal. The state sued the city of Birmingham after officials tried to remove a 52-foot- tall obelisk that was erected to honor Confederate veterans in a downtown park in 1905. Rather than toppling the stone marker, the city built a 12-foot- tall wooden box around it. Birmingham’s population of 210,000 is more than 70 percent black, and the judge said it was indisputable that most citizens are “repulsed” by the memorial. He rejected the state’s claims that law- makers had the power to protect his- torical monuments statewide. Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin told The Associated Press he was happy with the ruling. “We were not even a city during the Civil War,” he said. But Woodfin, citing the state’s plan to appeal, said the monument can’t be taken down immediately. “We’ll weigh our options,” he said. The law includes a $25,000 pen- alty for removing or altering a histori- cal monument, but the judge said the penalty was unconstitutional. The city hasn’t had to pay while the lawsuit worked its way through court. The ruling came hours after the inau- guration of Republican Gov. Kay Ivey, who signed the law and opened her campaign last year with a commercial that prominently showed Confederate monuments. “We can’t change or erase our history, but here in Alabama we know something that Washington doesn’t. To get where we are going means understanding where we have been,” Ivey said in the ad. Supporters of the law contend it pro- tects not just Confederate memori- als but historical markers of any kind, but rebel memorials have been an is- sue nationwide since a white suprema- cist gunman killed nine worshippers in a black church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015. State Sen. Gerald Allen, the Tuscalo- osa Republican who sponsored the leg- islation, said in a statement that the law was meant to “thoughtfully preserve the entire story of Alabama’s history for fu- ture generations.” “The attorney general’s office is con- fident that the Memorial Preservation Act is constitutional, and I look forward to the attorney general’s appeal of Judge Graffeo’s ruling,” Allen said. Judge voids Alabama law protecting Confederate monuments BY ROBERT S. DAVIS Washington Post It was promising to be an un- characteristically warm winter day in Boston. The temperature on Jan. 15, 1919, had soared to 40 degrees from 2 degrees ear- lier in the week, prompting many downtown workers to head out- doors. Shortly after noon in the city’s bustling North End, as Model T Fords chugged by and elevated trains screeched above Commer- cial Street, a group of firefighters sat down for a game of cards in a firehouse near a massive tank that stored molasses used in the production of industrial alcohol. As the firefighters puzzled over their hands, they heard a strange staccato sound. The rivets on the 50-foot-high storage tank began to shoot off, and a dull roar fol- lowed. At the noise, firefighter Paddy Driscoll whipped around. “Oh my God!” he exclaimed as he saw the dark torrent spilling out. “Run!” The Great Molasses Flood was underway. The syrup swamped one of Boston’s busiest neigh- borhoods, killing 21 and injuring 150. “Midday turned to darkness as the 2.3 million gallons of mo- lasses engulfed the Boston wa- terfront like a black tidal wave, 25 feet high and 160 feet wide at the outset,” Stephen Puleo re- counted in his book “Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919,” which vividly captures details of the disaster, including the chilling reactions of Driscoll and others to the tank rupture. Boston police patrolman Frank McManus spotted the 26 million-pound wall of goop and shouted to the dispatcher, “Send all available rescue vehicles and personnel immediately — there’s a wave of molasses coming down Commercial Street!” By now traveling at 35 mph, the wave of sugary doom tore through the North End with enough power to crumple small structures, blast a truck through a fence, knock the firehouse off its foundation and rip away a beam supporting the elevated train tracks. Within seconds, two city blocks were inundated — and the death toll began to climb. City workers who were taking advantage of the warmth to eat lunch outside drowned where they sat. Two 10-year-olds who were collecting firewood near the molasses tank were swept away. Others suffocated as their homes and basements quickly filled. “I was in bed on the third floor of my house when I heard a deep rumble. ... I awoke in several feet of molasses,” Martin Cloughtery told the Boston Globe in 1919. “A pile of wreckage was holding me down, and a little way from me I saw my sister. I struggled out from under the wreckage and pulled my sister toward me and helped her on to a raft. I then be- gan to look for my mother.” Even animals didn’t escape. “A score of Public Works De- partment horses were either smothered in their stalls by the flood of molasses or so severely injured as their stable collapsed that they were shot by policemen to end their suffering,” the Globe wrote in 1919. “Here and there struggled a form — whether it was animal or human being was impossible to tell,” the Boston Post wrote. “Only an upheaval, a thrashing about in the sticky mass, showed where any life was.” Scientific American magazine in 2013 explained why a wave of molasses can be much deadlier than a wave of water. “The dense wall of syrup surging from its collapsed tank initially moved fast enough to sweep people up and demolish buildings, only to settle into a more gelatinous state that kept people trapped.” Rescuers and sailors from the U.S. combat ship Nantucket de- scended on the scene in droves, but struggled in the muck, which stained the waters of Boston Harbor brown for several days. The search for survivors be- came a search for answers: Why did the tank rupture, and were there signs beforehand? The second part of that ques- tion was easily answered. Dur- ing the summer of 1918, one of the hottest on record in Boston, North End residents began no- ticing leaks at the tank. After an employee reported a leak, the company acted — by painting over the gray shell of the tank with a rust-brown color. “The sticky liquid now blended, cha- meleon-like, with the fresh coat of paint, indiscernible from the tank’s wall,” Puleo wrote. Litigation swiftly followed the disaster, and the lawsuit and trial against the tank’s owner, U.S. In- dustrial Alcohol, would last six years and grow to one of the most exhaustive in the state’s history. The trial produced three theo- ries about the cause of the rup- ture: structural failure of the tank, fermentation of the molas- ses that led to an eruption and sabotage via a bomb. The com- pany steadfastly blamed anar- chists. A court-appointed audi- tor disagreed, and in 1925 ruled that the company was to blame for the disaster. U.S. Indus- trial Alcohol would later pay the flood victims and their families $628,000 — the equivalent of $9.2 million today. Today, studies have offered grim insight into why the tank collapsed. In a 2015 issue of Civil and Structural Engineer Maga- zine, engineer Ronald Mayville concluded that the walls of the tank were too thin, a flaw that builders at the time should have known. “No one disputed they un- derdesigned the tank walls,” he told the Boston Globe. Back in the Boston of 1919, the city grieved as more bodies were found, some so battered and glazed by molasses that identi- fication proved difficult. Four months later, the last body at- tributed to the flood was discov- ered under the wharf. “Boston is appalled at the ter- rible accident,” Mayor Andrew J. Peters said in 1919. Over time, however, the Great Molasses Flood has become less of a cata- lyst for outrage and more of a quirky footnote in history. “The flood today remains part of the city’s folklore, but not its heritage,” Puleo wrote. “The substance itself” — molasses — “gives the entire event an un- usual, whimsical quality.” But for years after the flood, the memories of it resided not just in North Enders’ minds, but in their noses. “The smell of molasses,” jour- nalist Edwards Park wrote in 1983, “remained for decades a distinctive, unmistakable atmo- sphere of Boston.” ‘OH MY GOD! RUN!’ 100 years ago, a deadly wave of molasses tore through Boston LIBRARY OF CONGRESS PRINTS AND PHOTOGRAPHS DIVISION The scene in Boston’s North End on Jan. 15, 1919, after a massive tank holding molasses ruptured. The ensuing flood of 2.3 million gallons killed 21 and injured 150. Within seconds, two city blocks were inundated. Engineers later concluded the walls of the tank were too thin. ASSOCIATED PRESS Men walk past a Confederate monument in Linn Park in downtown Birmingham, Ala., in 2016. A judge has overturned an Alabama law that prevents the removal of Confederate monuments from public property. The state attorney general says he will appeal.

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