At one point, Americans were okay with investing in our infrastructure. With building an America that could be better, even if it meant we had to spend money or raise a temporary tax. It was okay, because the project would make us safer and stronger and more prosperous.
Background: In 1900 a terrible hurricane smashed into Galveston, Texas killing over 6,000 people. And the people of Galveston reacted by building a giant seawall and raising their entire city--some parts seventeen feet.
Smaller government, smaller dreams, smaller people
More astonishing, and just as moving, was the end of this documentary on the Galveston Hurricane — the account of the city’s audacious plan to rebuild and the execution of that plan. This story is inspiring and depressing.
It’s inspiring because they did this — real people really did this. They built a 17-foot-tall seawall along the Gulf side of the island.
And then they raised the entire city.
More than 500 city blocks. They raised it 17 feet higher nearest the seawall, gradually sloping downward from their all the way to the other side of the island. This involved jacking up every building in the city — mostly by hand. That included a massive stone church, which they lifted with mulepower. Then, with hundreds of buildings raised up to the proper height according to their location in the slope, they pumped in more than 16 million cubic yards of sand and slurry from the shipping channel in the Gulf.
This was an amazing feat of engineering and muscle, accomplished more than 100 years ago with hardly any of the technology we would employ if we were ever to attempt such a thing today.
And that’s the depressing part. We would never attempt such a thing today. We’re no longer capable of pulling it off. We’re no longer capable of even trying.
Consider this account of the rebuilding and re-engineering of Galveston. Consider the scope and audacity of the project — the cost, the labor, the years it took. Does any American city, or America itself, still have the courage, vision or capacity to attempt such a thing? I don’t know. I doubt it.