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    Contributors | September 15, 2015

    Mary Karr: IMG Memoir Tutorials with Mary Karr, Lena Dunham, and Gary Shteyngart

    Editor's note: It's been 20 years since the groundbreaking memoir The Liars' Club sent Mary Karr into the literary spotlight with its phenomenal... Continue »
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      The Art of Memoir

      Mary Karr 9780062223067

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Gone at 3:17: The Untold Story of the Worst School Disaster in American History


Gone at 3:17: The Untold Story of the Worst School Disaster in American History Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

At 3:17 p.m. on March 18, 1937, a natural gas leak beneath the London Junior-Senior High School in the oil boomtown of New London, Texas, created a lethal mixture of gas and oxygen in the schools basement. The odorless, colorless gas went undetected until the flip of an electrical switch triggered a colossal blast. The two-story school, one of the nations most modern, disintegrated, burying everyone under a vast pile of rubble and debris. More than 300 students and teachers were killed, and hundreds more were injured. As the seventy-fifth anniversary of the catastrophe approaches, it remains the deadliest school disaster in U.S. history. Few, however, know of this historic tragedy, and no book, until now, has chronicled the explosion, its cause, its victims, and the aftermath. Gone at 3:17 is a true story of what can happen when school officials make bad decisions. To save money on heating the school building, the trustees had authorized workers to tap into a pipeline carrying “waste” natural gas produced by a gasoline refinery. The explosion led to laws that now require gas companies to add the familiar pungent odor. The knowledge that the tragedy could have been prevented added immeasurably to the heartbreak experienced by the survivors and the victims families. The town would never be the same. Using interviews, testimony from survivors, and archival newspaper files, Gone at 3:17 puts readers inside the shop class to witness the spark that ignited the gas. Many of those interviewed during twenty years of research are no longer living, but their acts of heroism and stories of survival live on in this meticulously documented and extensively illustrated book.

Book News Annotation:

In 1937, school authorities decided to save money on heating by piping 'waste' natural gas from a nearby oil refinery into a Texas high school. Not long after, the school exploded, killing 300 people. Written in a descriptive narrative style, this account draws on newspaper reports and interviews with survivors and witnesses to portray the real life of the town and to profile the lives those killed as well as the decision makers ultimately responsible for the tragedy. The book includes b&w historical photos. Brown and Wereschagin are journalists. The book is distributed in the US by Books International. Annotation ©2012 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Product Details

Brown, David M.
Potomac Books
Brown, David
World History-General
Edition Description:
Trade Cloth
Publication Date:

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Related Subjects

Education » General
History and Social Science » Politics » General
History and Social Science » Social Science » Disasters and Disaster Relief
History and Social Science » World History » General
Science and Mathematics » Physics » Meteorology

Gone at 3:17: The Untold Story of the Worst School Disaster in American History New Hardcover
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Product details 328 pages Potomac Books - English 9781612341538 Reviews:
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