I did it! I have already accomplished this goal on my list of 27 Things To Do Before I’m 28, all in one afternoon. Obviously, this is not where I intend to stop getting stamps for the year nor is this the part in this posting where I place my final period. A little background into my three cancellation stamps as well as some information on my little black passport. To begin with, Tyler and I had a day off simultaneously which almost never happens. Immediately we wanted to go hiking somewhere. We decided to venture out to a few of the national park service destinations and explore. We realized that we are roughly forty minutes away from Somerset, PA which is right near where Flight 93 crashed down on that fateful September 11 in 2001. There is a memorial site there we wanted to visit. On our way back home we figured we’d stop at the Johnstown Flood Memorial in Johnstown, PA just to get a little bit of Central PA history. When else would we have the opportunity to visit either of these places? We are seizing the day (any day we can) to discover our new home of the Mid-Atlantic region.
This is where our passports come into play. We first picked up our Passports to the National Parks back in October of 2011 when we road-tripped throughout the southwest.
These passports look like any other black passport with pages and pages to fill with cancellation stamps. The cancellation stations are located at most National Parks throughout the country. The passport itself is divided up into the various regions of the US. Each region then lists all of the destinations that you can visit and receive your park cancellations (stamp) by state. This is where we learned of the Johnstown Flood Memorial! The whole idea of the Passport to Your National Park is brilliant in that it is maintaining excitement about our National Parks. It encourages people to support all of our countries history through the National Park Service. It creatively gets people to visit not only the larger well known parks, but the smaller sites as well that receive far less traffic. In celebrating their 25th anniversary this past March, they have even developed an iPhone app you can download for free from iTunes! It helps to find passport cancellation stations as well as record the location and date of your visit. I prefer my little black book instead.
Our first site exploration was the Flight 93 National Memorial. It was moving, simple, and very well done. The crowd was larger than I would have expected for being a random late Monday morning in the beginning of July. The feel was that of the Vietnam Memorial in D.C. with the long, humbling walk of stone and cement that leads you to the wall of names. There are informational stations teaching the details of that heroic flight. There are chilling details that at the time were not important enough to make the news, but that when reading you find yourself dumbfounded. I was taken aback, but left feeling a sense of pride for how good people can really be.
Our next stopping point was the Johnstown Flood National Memorial. (A day for memorials, huh?) This one absolutely blew me away. Johnstown is a city located in a valley that is approximately 30 miles or so from where we are living now in Central PA. It is surrounded by forested hills and beauty all around. Back in the late 1880’s, a dam was constructed from clay for various reasons while the railroad was being built. Unfortunately money in Pennsylvania ran out and the construction of the railroad was stalled. The original owner sold it to a greedy man who made alterations to the dam in order to beautify it for his newly made hunting and fishing club (resort) on the lake. Well this dam and lake were directly upstream from the town in the valley, Johnstown. After many civil engineers informed the club president that the dam was unstable, and after many denials about the dam’s construction, the dam busted. There was a huge rainstorm on May 31, 1989 that virtually pushed the dam away from either side of the valley wall due to the high pressure. The event was devastating, killing 2,209 people immediately and many more in the days following.
This event not only depicted the ideals of the time when everything was driven by greed for money and power, including taking shortcuts that resulted in a deadly consequence. It also informs us about a transitional time for our country when communication and transportation were still a luxury and not a given. What baffled us both is the fact that this disastrous event killed more people than the sinking of the Titanic (killing 1517), yet nobody has ever heard of the Johnstown Flood. Needless to say we were both fascinated by this event and even took a guided van tour with the park ranger to learn all of the details of what led up to the flood. Go to this National memorial because it is well worth it.