June 29, 1893—Follow-up on the Circus Catastrophe

One week after the disastrous lightning and fire at the circus in River Falls, the River Falls Journal ran a follow-up article detailing how the injured survivors were doing.

Incidents and Results of Wednesday’s Catastrophe.

We are pleased to be justified in saying that all the injured in the late catastrophe are doing well and will ultimately recover.  Some of them however were severely injured and it will require time and nursing to bring them back to their normal condition.  Mrs. James Glenndenning was perhaps the most seriously injured of any one.  She was not strong and her physicians feared the worst for a time.  They consider her now in a fair way to recovery.  The surviving boy who was injured by the same bolt that killed his father and brother and came so near making him doubly and orphan has quite recovered.

Alfred Mapes another of the seriously injured is recovering the use of himself, his burns which were severe now being the principal cause of suffering.  The same may be said of Rosess and Delhorbe.  Their burns are very severe, so much so as to make any movement of the limbs painful.  Their general health is good and this with the vigorous health of young manhood will bring them safely out of their injuries.

James Jackman of Pleasant Valley was paralyzed by the lightning on the 21st and was hors de combat¹ for several days, but now feels no especial inconvenience except that his muscles do not seem to perform their ordinary functions with the accustomed alacrity.

Hans Larson also complains that the shock he received at the same time has left him in a very “shaky” condition, but he thinks this “shaky” state of affairs in his own system may be the result of sympathy with the financial outlook.

Mr. Moulton received a shock that stunned and prostrated him but received no injury.  Mrs. Moulton was standing beside him resting her hand on his shoulder, this hand was severely burned.

Curtis Aldrich’s experience was remarkable and his own escape borders on the miraculous.  He was severely[,] and it was thought for several hours after the accident fatally[,] injured.  He remained unconscious far into the night and was paralyzed to such an extent that the physicians could detect no pulsations in the left side of his body for six hours or more, but yesterday Mr. Aldrich was on the street walking about with bandaged feet assisted only by a crutch.  This is his third tussle with lightening.  Once he was thrown nearly across a room when a bolt struck the chimney of the house in which he was stopping.  When he received the shock on the 21st which killed his little boy he was holding the latter by the hand.  What a mournful experience!  Clasping the little hand of his trusting child whose happy face was turned to his father’s listening intently to catch the meaning of words never fully pronounced and the lightning descended from heaven and that hand was limp and lifeless, the voice was hushed and the happy heard of childhood stood still, but the smile remained upon the placid face of innocence.  What an awful awakening came to that fond father when the full consciousness returned to him!  Health may be restored to him, all that the world could give which he may desire may be his, but there will be a void unfilled all along his earthly pilgrimage, his child will come not back.  He will look with an unspeakable longing for Claud, but he will never again see him running down the road with joyous shout to meet him on his return from the city.  He will not hear his glad voice at play among his fellows. Coming from the field he will miss him in his accustomed place, his chair at the table will be vacant, he will be alone in the fields and on the highway and in the bosom of the night.  In agony will his soul cry out in the darkness for his lost boy but he will hear no answering hair.  There will be silence and gloom.

Claud was eight years old—not an infant whose young mind could not comprehend or appreciate, nor a youth who had drawn himself away from his father—self-reliant and independent but he was in that trusting age of his life when he can understand but leans wholly on his father, relies upon him, confides in him, believes him the best and wisest man, and that father’s heart enshrines him completely, his love encircles him, his arm is around him, he has grown into his father’s life, these two are one.  Never before the age of six or seven are they so and never after the child is ten. And suddenly this young life is torn away from the father’s heart; a part of that heart lies in the grave of the dead child.  He will cherish the memory of his child, it will be sweet and green and fragrant.  He lives with him in the past, he hears his dear voice—a voice that thrilled him as the sweetest music could not, he sees the smiling face still, every incident of that innocent and happy life comes to his thoughts to-day.  And these thoughts will repeat themselves every day of that father’s mortal life, but “it is well with the child.”

The case of little Floyd Smith, is similar in some of its aspects to that of the above.  Mr. Smith, the father, is nearly blind and depended in a large measure upon the help and guidance of the son, who was fourteen. Sympathy for these bereaved families is universal and sincere.

The lightning played strange freaks with watches.  In one instance the links of the chain were melted and welded into a solid mass, the stem of the case melted completely off, the case perforated and the crystal broken into fragments, yet the watch had not stopped running.   In another instance two holes were made through the cover of the case;  in another the chain broken into several pieces and the case melted nearly through.

The center pole of the tent that received the shock was splintered into innumerable fragments as if by an explosion, only small fragments being discoverable, a proof of the immense and sudden force of the bolt.

1.  Hors de combat is a French expression, literally meaning “out of the fight,” and generally meaning a soldier who is incapable of waging war, who is out of action due to injury, sickness, or damage.

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