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Never in recorded United States history has there been anything to match the fire of 1910. For its size, its ferocity, its impact, nothing comes close. Over the course of a weekend, 3 million acres were burned -- an area equal to the size of Connecticut. Several towns were leveled, and about 100 people were killed, as well.
But beyond the astonishing numbers about timber blown down in hurricane force winds, and temperatures at the peak of the firestorm touching 2,000 degrees, the fire stands out for another reason. As a nation, the United States had never tried to organize a large force to fight a wildfire. It was done in 1910, and the lessons, and consequences, are with us still.
The name Thomas Edison has become synonymous with invention and his most famous invention, the electric light bulb, has become a familiar symbol for that flash of inspired genius traditionally associated with invention. In part the light bulb's symbolic value comes from its obvious role as a visual metaphor of the "bright idea." But this symbolism also arises from its association with Thomas Edison -- the electric light as the greatest invention of the world's greatest inventor. The "electric light," however, was no single invention emanating from an inspired genius. Instead it was a complex network of inventions produced by teams of researchers working under his direction in the world’s first true invention laboratory. As he invented the system of electric lighting, Edison simultaneously reinvented the system of invention.
On October 3rd, 2014, my children and I went to the Michigan Theater to watch Last Days In Vietnam, a film directed by Rory Kennedy, who is the youngest daughter of Robert Kennedy. This documentary meticulously covers the stressful events that led to the 1975 evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. Through never before seen footage of intense interviews with U.S. servicemen and Vietnamese civilians, Ms. Kennedy brings their story to life with unprecedented detail.
Binh attended a screening of Last Days in Vietnam in the fall of 2014. After seeing herself and her family in the documentary, she contacted American Experience to share her story. She asked that we only use her first name for this post.
American Experience announced today that its production Last Days in Vietnam, directed and produced by Rory Kennedy, has been nominated for the Academy Award® for Documentary Feature. This is Ms. Kennedy’s first Academy Award® nomination, and the ninth for the series.
Bunny Sanders is the Mayor of Roper, North Carolina. Her father, E.V. Wilkins was a prominent black leader in Eastern North Carolina and was Roper’s first black mayor in 1967. In her interview for the film, Klansville U.S.A., Mayor Sanders states, "We had the NAACP. They had the Klan." We asked her to elaborate on this and explain how the two very different groups found their own outlets to ensure they were heard in North Carolina during the 1960s.