The Johnstown Tragedy
WORST TRAGEDY ON US SOIL, TILL 911
I had a great deal of fun, and experienced a great deal of grimness writing this Historical Christian Fiction Novel. Whoops, I said “I had. . .” when in point of fact it is the Guardian Angel, Hael’s first novel.
The 2 1/2 minute video, below, was made when the book was available for Pre-Purchase. I am including it here though, because it does a brilliant job explaining the book. Of course, the novel is NOW AVAILABLE. We believe you will you will enjoy, The Johnstown Tragedy, God In Its Midst.
129 Years In The Making
This novel begins with the graphic, heart-rending descriptions from the 1889 account written by James Herbert Walker. Hael then inserts backstories of his and other angel’s descriptions of men and women;
- Some who died,
- Some who lived, and
- Some who took advantage of the tragedy.
Below are a few photos which are in the book. They are wood engravings found in the newspapers of the day. The photos will give you a feel for the tragedy, again, the worst tragedy on US soil until 911.
In contrast to the 1889 stories, Hael tells us of a variety of incidents which occurred;
- Before the flood,
- During the flood,
- After the flood, and
- Far from the flood, in heaven.
His backstories are so varied that you will look forward to each one. Here are just a few of his titles.
- HAEL, CHRISTLIKE BRAVERY
- HAEL, GERTIE’S TESTIMONY
- HAEL, INCREDULOUS ABOUT PRAYER
Throughout 384 pages you will see these section titles, all in caps, and italicized. These instantly tell you that a backstory from Hael begins. In them, you will see human tragedy mixed brilliantly with Godly hope.
As an added focus, Hael shows us what happens between earth and heaven, as well as many, many descriptions of meetings in heaven.
If you are wondering if this will be a depressing book, I can give you a resounding, “No! You will be moved, and it will be sobering. But YOU WILL experience hope and even joy.”
Sample Hael’s Backstories
Below are a couple of Hael’s backstories, in full. Enjoy:
HAEL, TWO SISTER’S DEATHS
Note the account above of the features being “twisted and contorted as if they had died in the most excruciating agony. Others are found lying stretched out with calm faces.” This reminds me of two sisters, both were Christians and are in heaven right now. But both met their death very differently.
Miss Molly and Miss Emma were known in South Fork as the Spinster Sisters. They were twins born in 1831 when this area was known as the rough far west region of the Unites States. They were born of sturdy hard-working parents who just barely made a living, raising chickens and cattle. The girls grew up knowing the hard labor that sons would have done, had their mother been able to have additional children after the girls were born. But the birth of twins out in the beautiful, but lonely far west ruined her ability to have any more children.
And so, the two girls were the “boys” their father wanted and needed. Miss Molly and Miss Emma were visiting family in Pittsburgh when their parents died together in a flood in 1862 that occurred because the same dam weakened and broke. Being unmarried and thirty-one years old, they decided to stay on in South Fork, after all, Molly had become very active in her church.
Miss Molly and Miss Emma were identical twins. Standing next to one another, you couldn’t tell them apart, but that is where the similarity ended. The moment they moved apart you could see instantly the activity that Miss Molly would endeavor to accomplish. But Miss Emma’s heart was very different.
When Miss Molly was teaching a Bible study, making a dinner and organizing the young boys to clean the yard where they were to feast after church, Miss Emma contented herself to play with the children, tidy the house, and read their parent’s Bible, allowing it to direct what she prayed about and how she prayed.
That morning and afternoon were exactly what you would expect, Miss Molly entered Johnstown before the sun and walked the grounds where numerous flags awaited the soon coming parade. She had two or three boys with her sending them as dispatch riders to accomplish this item and accomplish that item.
Miss Emma stayed close to Molly, but would break away to encourage a little child she saw who might be up early on this historic and exciting day. Alert to the feelings of those around her she always watched the boys her sister would give orders to and calm their nerves when they realized Miss Molly had just demanded what they feared would be beyond their ability.
Miss Molly ordered people, and Miss Emma encouraged people.
Miss Molly handled her women’s Bible study the same way: she told them how to live and what to do. And then she demonstrated it, “showing what a real Proverbs 31 woman does” she would often say.
One Sunday morning Miss Molly felt so bad from a head cold that she could not get out of bed to go to church. Fearing that her women would begin to believe that they too did not need to go to church, she sent her sister, Miss Emma to conduct the Bible study.
“Emma,” she said, “I know that you surely cannot teach the women like I do, nevertheless, I need your help and expect you to teach the women for me.”
After a calm smile, confident Miss Emma replied softly, “I’ll do my best sister.”
It was the last time Miss Molly ever asked her sister to lead the study, for the next Sunday when Miss Molly sat with her ladies and Miss Emma took her usual place behind Molly, the class began to tell her how much they enjoyed Miss Emma.
“It was like we were sitting at the feet of Jesus,” one woman explained.
On the fateful day of the flood which tore their mortal lives from them, they were hiking alongside the swift moving Conemaugh River. The trail they were walking on got closer and closer to the normally tranquil river and immediately their trail disappeared under the raging water so the sisters started to climb up the steep ravine. They had left Johnstown heading back home to South Fork when they heard it. They had never heard a sound like this before. As it came toward them they expected to see bolts and shafts of lightning all around them. For the sound was as if thousands of cracking lightning bolts were being hurled down by God Himself.
As they stopped to take a rest the two sisters saw a dirty mist churning toward them. They looked in shocked amazement for what seemed like an eternity but could only have been a few seconds. They saw trees being turned over in a large wave of dust and debris.
The debris would rise to the top of the wave and then come sharply, and forcefully down upon the earth below, with a deafening sound. They turned to look at one another, realizing at the same time that they would not escape this, and here in the midst of the ultimate turmoil, a life-threatening event, the differences in the two sisters became evident.
While Miss Emma fell to her knees she raised her hands and lifted her face to heaven. Remembering the words of Job, she cried out, for she had to yell to hear herself above the roar coming so close to her. “Oh Father, with nothing I came into this world, and with nothing I leave this world.”
With her arms raised she lowered her head in submission to God. The debris flying around her was so thick that she shut her eyes. When she opened them again she saw Jesus standing and welcoming her into His kingdom, and standing next to him were her mother and father.
A few feet away from Miss Emma, who had just hit her knees, Miss Molly had a decidedly different reaction. When her sister went to her knees, she turned and hurled herself in the opposite direction. While running and jumping as quickly as she could the sound got closer and closer.
Looking up to the heavens as she ran she said anxiously, “Why have you done this Lord?” She then felt the crush of the churning debris pick her up and pound her into the ground. Although a fellow angel had her surrounded by his wings she felt an intense agony so all pervasive that she did not want to open her eyes, yet when she did, she saw Emma, already robed in white, standing next to Jesus along with their parents.
As usual, seeing only the side of this disaster from your vantage point misses a great deal of the “action,” as you may want to call it. (Hael is telling you this because in the book, The Johnstown Tragedy, you would have just read the 1889 author’s account of Hettie’s death, without Hael’s insight).
Mrs. Hettie Ogle had been on the job with Western Union for nearly thirty years. She had lost her husband in the Civil War and had a tough outer skin that caused her to take her job more seriously than one would expect. She also took responsibility for her daughter Minnie, but both would perish as they did not expect the flood would do the damage that it did.
Remember that the evil one’s deception is best told by Jesus who said he is here to steal, to kill and to destroy. This is only half the verse though, for in the other half Jesus tells you that He has come that you might have an abundant life.
The demon hoadtiE (pronounced like HŌD-tī, with a long “O” and a long “I”) had been called in from Eastern Europe where he had spent the last 2000 years. It became obvious to us that the evil one had him, an upper echelon demon in the Western Union office to cause more deception and distraction.
Mid-morning on this rainy and dreary day hoadtiE had continued to speak into the ear of 52-year-old Hettie Ogle that, “this would not be a difficult day, very wet, and the creek will rise a bit. But Hettie, you do not have to take these fears you keep hearing seriously.”
To her credit, she took the warnings coming to her very seriously and continued to keep her end of the messages flowing as long as she could. She always ate lunch early and so at 11:00 a.m., when her 32-year-old daughter Minnie brought her lunch she asked her to stay. “After all Minnie, the water in the streets is rising. Stay with me and we will walk home together after this rain subsides and the water level reduces.”
Thinking that he had won, hoadtiE let out a cackle that we were all forced to hear.
Our role in these types of situations is to encourage the believer, even comforting them if necessary. We found ourselves doing that on behalf of Minnie. Hettie, too busy sending dispatches to fret, was also too busy to calm Minnie. When she would worry, hoadtiE would cackle but one of us would wrap our wings round about her and then hum to her which always gave her comfort.
At 1:00 p.m. the water rose so much that they both went to the second floor. But Hettie, a brilliant worker, kept the Tribune editor Mr. Swank updated, as he kept a running diary of the day. She also kept Mr. Deckert, the Pennsylvania Railroad Freight Station agent updated.
Hettie would not know this but Mr. Swank had just noted that the Stoney Creek had just carried a live cow down by him.
Still thinking that that water would soon quit rising and all would be well, Hettie and Minnie Ogle could not hear hoadtiE scream his joy when at 3:15 Hettie called The Tribune to say that the South Fork Reservoir above her continued to worsen.
The dam had already burst and by this time was already headed towards them.
Cackling his approval of the certain death to come, hoadtiE watched from above while two of us encircled Hettie and Minnie.
From their second story perch, really, the second story of the telegraph tower, the sound of the debris being pushed by the mountain of water reached their ears first. The noise of scraping and bumping and grinding came from all around them. The sound began as a low rumble. It then began to vibrate their second story overlook.
Hettie looked up in bewilderment and saw a dark brown haze. She immediately pushed Minnie into a corner.
When Minnie saw her mother’s eyes widen she started to scream and immediately heard her mother recite the 23rd Psalm.
As we wrapped our wings around them their fearful shaking eased, and hoadtiE watched the wave of debris reach their tower and squealed with delight. The power of the rolling turbulent debris crushed the tower into the already soft and wet ground.
Neither Hettie nor Minnie’s bodies would ever be identified, but as they breathed their last here on earth we carried them into heaven where Jesus stood, welcoming them into Paradise. Standing next to Jesus was Hettie’s husband, smiling and awaiting their arrival.