In 1943, a coal mine explosion devastated a tiny Montana mining town. The disaster killed 74 men and forever changed the lives of their familes and the destiny of their charming all-American home, Bearcreek.
The Smith Coal Mine disaster was one of the nation’s worst coal-mining accidents, but because it occurred during World War II, it was quickly forgotten by all, except those who lived through it.
Now, author Susan Kushner Resnick recounts the story in Goodbye Wifes and Daughters: The Explosion of An American Town. Her book, which will be published by the University of Nebraska Press in 2009, will explore the heroes who fought to save lives, the villians who may have caused their deaths and the families who lost almost everything on one sunny February morning.
Though the Smith disaster occurred nearly 65 years ago, the same dangerous circumstances still exist and eerily similar tragedies are still happening in the coal industry today. Goodbye Wifes and Daughters is not only a heartbreaking story, it is also a cautionary tale.
"Susan Resnick has done a marvelous and very difficult thing. Through her fine research and wonderful prose, she has captured the heart and soul of an American town. This is one of the best books I’ve ever read about mining and the strong, amazing, enduring people who do it."
-- Homer Hickam, author of Rocket Boys and October Sky
"Resnick does an admirable job of breathing life into the story of a small town’s demise and its questioning of whether the disaster could have been avoided."
-- The Washington Post
"Few accounts have ever done justice to the women, families and communities of coal towns, or depicted their character with such clarity as this book does. The heartrending and yet, in the end, inspiring portraits of actual people willing to battle against a callous industry are skillfully rendered."
-- The Charleston Gazette
"Those who enjoy reading history and about the perseverance of the human spirit will not soon forget this story of the tragedy that left fifty-eight women widowed and 125 children fatherless."
-- Montana Quarterly
"Resnick’s book is a celebration of the ability of wives, sons and daughters to cope with terrible circumstances and to survive with a certain nobility of spirit."
-- The Billings Gazette
"Ms. Resnick writes about a tougher time, of miners who sensed they were in danger but went into the mine anyway, determined to feed their families and keep the coal coming. . . . This story will never be told better."
-- The Billings Outpost
"In most history books, disasters are reduced to numbers. The dead. The cost. But in this remarkable look at a forgotten moment, Susan Kushner Resnick replaces statistics with detailed lives of some of the seventy- five men who died in the 1943 mine explosion in Bearcreek, Montana -- an explosion that, for some families, still echoes today."
-- Scott Martelle, author of Detroit and Blood Passion: The Ludlow Massacre and Class War in the American West
"With a compassionate voice, Susan Kushner Resnick makes Bearcreek come alive in her new book."
-- In These Times
"Resnick felt the fascination of how the surviving women managed to continue after facing such loss; the need to share their heroic stories; the anger at those who let it happen; and the hope the someday history would stop repeating itself."
-- The Missoulian
"Goodbye Wifes and Daughters weaves together a narrative about death and survival that provides a fascinating window into the underground coal-mining industry during World War II. Most importantly, the book is filled with the stories of people that place the Smith Mine disaster squarely in a context not previously known."
-- Montana, the Magazine of Western History