JFM (09/28/1954 / Flushing)

Three Minutes To Midnight

The water had risen to just below the brim and
cracks were observed along the poured concrete rim.
For days now such troubling signs had appeared;
The Dam Keeper had expressed concerns, then been told not to fear.
The Chief engineer had come up and opined
that the mighty Dam's walls would stand all tests of time.

Down there in the valley with the last of the light
The ranchers and their families bedded down for the night.
Their ignorance was bliss for no one foresaw
That flood waters obey an immutable law.

The Saint Francis Dam in the San Francisquito Valley
Was about to give way. There'd be no time to dally.
At three minutes to midnight came an unearthly sound;
Twelve Billion gallons of water knocked the dam down.

Bodies and boulders, stone structures and trees
Formed a wave of destruction that raced for the sea
A mighty Tsunami; a hundred feet high
All those in its way were those destined to die.

Man, in his hubris, seems always to feel
That he is the master to whom Nature must yield.
Yet, in reality, we are helpless and small;
Overcome by flood waters we are nothing at all.

Mulholland, the department head shouldered the blame.
Bravely I think- Who today would do the same?
The ruins of Saint Francis Dam still stand to remind us
That our works are ephemeral; history serves to remind us.

Our land's infrastructure is in need of repair.
We must not wait for more cracks to appear.
The innocent suffer if we fail to heed this call.
Its three minutes to midnight for us one and all.

by John F. McCullagh

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