National Geographic : 1900 Oct
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE VOL. XI OCTOBER, 1900 No. 10 THE LESSONS OF GALVESTON ByWJMCGEE Formerly Geologist in Charge Coastal Plain Division, U. S. Geological Surrey The darkest horror of American history has fallen on our southern coast; a city comparable in population and wealth with Ephesus and Sodom of old, with Herculaneum and Pompeii of appalling memory, and with earthquake-wrecked Lisbon of later centuries, is blotted out in a night. Thirty-eight thousand people, the life and soul of a pro gressive and thriving city, are overwhelmed and doubly decimated by wind and wave in the darkness; literal thousands are crushed in their own falling houses or drowned in the raging waters ; every sur vivor is made homeless, and most of them are utterly impoverished. The morning's sun rises on a scene of suffering and devastation hardly paralleled in the history of the world-a scene which has been, and will be again and again, described by tongue and pen, but never in more than a fraction or suggestion of the ghastly details. Out of the awful chaos spring the twin progeny of catastrophe, begotten of the best and the worst of humanity-Heroism, clad gloriously in helpful ness and self-abnegation, and Ghoulism, shrouded vilely in cowardice and unholy greed. For many hours the disaster is secluded by the very extent of its wreckage, but the next day brings sympathy and substantial aid in a measure unequaled in the annals of nations: the great State of Texas is stirred into noble activity; hard-pressed Fed eral officials turn promptly from grave political and international problems toward the stricken city on the coast, while literal millions of fellow citizens spring to seek means of contributing to the allevia tion of the lot of the sufferers. Viewed as a physical phenomenon, the destruction of Galveston was a moving spectacle; viewed in its effect on human sympathy, it was sublime beyond all precedent.