The Rivers of Life - And Death by William T. Harper

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William T. Harper
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The Rivers of Life - And Death

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Book review

Through the pages of "The Rivers of Life – and Death," nine horrific tragedies on the Nation’s inland waterways, stretching back over 41 years (1964-2005) are graphically reported. September 22, 1993 was, without a doubt, the darkest day in the American towboating industry’s 200-year history. At 2:45 that morning, the towboat Mauvilla, pushing six barges in dense fog, nudged a railroad bridge, causing the derailment of Amtrak’s Sunset Limited passenger train. Forty-seven hapless souls plunged to their deaths in an alligator- and snake-infested murky bayou near Mobile, Alabama. One-hundred-and-three others were injured in the flaming carnage. Other dark days have been: June 16, 1964 – April 6, 1969 – August 1, 1974 – May 28, 1993 July 15, 2001 – September 15, 2001 – May 26, 2002 – January 9, 2005 Those nine days saw towboats and their barges slam into highway and railroad bridge pilings, collide with another vessel, run over a fishing boat, and wash over a dam. The resulting catastrophes ended the lives of 114 unsuspecting motor vehicle occupants, railroad train passengers and crew, fishermen, and mariners in those nine separate accidents. "The Rivers of Life – and Death" is meant for those who have traveled on and/or marveled at any of this nation’s 25,000 miles of inland waterways – the Mississippi, the Missouri, the Arkansas, the Illinois, the Ohio, the Gulf Intracoastal Canal, etc. For those who have navigated the locks or merely putt-putted up and down those waterways – whether commercially or as a pleasure boater – the stories herein (told in reverse chronological order) are for you. It may also be that this book will find its way into the crews’ quarters on many of the 3,000-plus towboats and tugs that ply those waterways. To some of them with whom we have traveled the inland waterways, we say “Hello” again. To all of them, we say “God Speed.” And last, but surely not least, "The Rivers of Life – and Death" may ironically bring some small sparks of knowledge to everyone about how that breakfast cereal on your table this morning got there.

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