Jul 3, 2010


"Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it." - Geo. Santayana

Last fall, coming back from Down South, MrsZ and I drove through Centralia, PA. I'd read about it, seen a few documentaries here and there, and we were close enough to make it a reasonable drive. If you're not familiar with it, it's a former mining town in the hills of Pennsylvania. In 1962, an exposed coal seam caught fire, and has been burning underground ever since. Wikipedia has a good article on it.

Wiki calls it a "ghost town". They're wrong. A ghost town conjures up images of weathered and dilapidated Old West, maybe a tumbleweed or two. Centralia is a memory of a town. The streets are still (mostly) there. The utility poles and lines still line the blocks. A few street signs remain. Perhaps half a dozen houses and buildings over the space of ten city blocks. The rest is open space where houses used to stand, since bulldozed level and reclaimed by grass and brush.

Poking through Hulu tonight, I found a documentary about Centralia.

One of the quotes in there, paraphrased, was this: "They had the fire a day or two from being out. The trench was almost far enough. The money ran out, and they couldn't allocate more. It went through the bureaucracy for three months, for bids and reviews and evaluations. They lost the town to bureaucracy."

Doesn't ring a bell at all, does it?

Are we going to do an eminent-domain buyout of the entire Gulf Coast?

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