Who: Daniel and Melanie
Location: Johnstown, PA
Cost: $4/adult, free with our National Park Pass
The Story of the Johnstown Flood
On May 31, 1889, the South Fork damn broke and 20 million tons of water were unleashed on the Johnstown community. Over 2,200 people were killed, including 99 entire families, when the 40-foot wall of water washed over Johnstown. To this day, the event is known as the worst disaster on American soil.
Daniel and I were eager to use our brand new National Park Pass, so we headed to the nearby Johnstown Flood National Memorial. We figured this was a good park to visit in the winter because most of the things to learn about are inside the visitor's center.
It took about an hour and a half to drive to the park. When we arrived the wind was gusting and the temperature was below freezing. We ran from the car into the visitor's center, and when we burst through the front door the ranger told us the movie was just starting. It was an anti-climatic first use of our pass - Daniel just had to flash it at the ranger and then she us hustled into the theater.
It was interesting that the main part of the memorial focused around a movie that was designed to tug at your heart strings. It showcased footage and photos of the same people that died in the flood, and also tried to convey the surprise and horror experienced by the flood victims.
The rest of the visitor's center displayed photographs from the disaster, a replica of the morgue log, and maps of the area. Big picture windows looked out over the remnants of the damn itself. The most eye-catching display was a life-size replica of wreckage from the flood and the most compelling story was an audio recording of one survivor's story.
What we thought was lacking was additional testimony from other survivors - the one account that they had was incredibly interesting and it was disappointing that they didn't have more. There is also a Johnstown Flood Museum, and this would probably be a nice follow-up to visiting the National Memorial.
We finished up our outing with a trip to the Mexican restaurant in Altoona and a stop at a furniture store to look at dining room tables. Overall, it was a fun outing and a very interesting day!