Sandra Morgan, granddaughter of Garrett A. Morgan, accepts an award from Cleveland Water Commissioner Alex Margevicius.
One hundred years ago, on July 24th, a powerful gas explosion occurred in Crib #5, a tunnel at the Cleveland Waterworks Department on W. 45th Street. Due to the use of an insufficient gas mask, initial rescue efforts failed to point that a Cleveland Police urged authorities to contact Garrett A. Morgan, an inventor, of the Cleveland National Safety Device Company of Cleveland.
As Case Western Reserve University’s Dr. John Grabowski so elegantly told the story - during an event “Commemorating the 100th anniversary of a Historic Rescue by Garrett A. Morgan” this past Monday at the now Garrett A. Morgan, Water Treatment Plant - the officer remembered seeing Morgan’s gas mask at a demonstration. And, once Morgan received the call, he jumped out of bed, grabbed the helmet, and ran so fast he left without shoes on his feet.
Morgan arrived shortly after dawn with his brother Frank. Because only two men wanted to go in wearing Morgan’s mask, the Morgan brothers entered the tunnel with them and recovered nine men. Six were still alive. Four died later.
The causality count, including rescue workers, totaled 19.
Grabowski went on point out, in the days following, every single newspaper account failed to mention the Morgan brothers by name despite pictures of his helmet in every rescue photo.
It was only 25 years ago today that the plant was named in his honor, Grabowski continued.
“It’s overwhelming,” said Sandra Morgan, granddaughter of Garrett A. Morgan, as she took the podium then looked into the faces of descendants of miners and rescue workers seated in the audience.
“This is a 100 year old story of truth and reconciliation. We knew our story but we never knew their story.” She pointed out that her grandfather was both inventor and entrepreneur, establishing a newspaper, “The Call,” that same year, which eventually merged with “The Post.”
Dr. Margaret Lynch, of the Irish American Archives Society, shared the story of miners during the program that included an array of speakers such as Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, Cleveland Council Terrell A. Pruitt, Director Robert L. Davis, City of Cleveland Department of Public Utilities and Nazyr Gardner, a Ginn Academy graduate who participated in Jackson’s Summer Youth Employment Program, among others.
A replica based on Morgan’s patent and pictures were unveiled.
During his speech, Gardner talked about the inspiration he’s received as a result of working at the plant and learning about Morgan’s historic rescue. He had no idea, he said. He also mentioned that he wants to become the director one day, drawing applause from the audience consisting a many peers. One stood.
The program continued with presentations to the families in addition to a performance by Center for Arts-Inspired learning, exhibit of student presentations and T-shirt designs from Youth Opportunities Unlimited - all Garrett A. Morgan inspired.