At Home With Lava: Dangerous Homes

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Unearthed coffins from a nearby cemetery and other debris littered his yard and hung from the trees. But the old man refused to budge, sitting in a reclining chair on what had been his lawn, reading the Bible.

For a period, he was the town's only inhabitant. The rest of Princeville remained in a nearby displacement camp, as local officials decided if it was even practical to rebuild. Even if they did, Princeville, situated on a flood plain, would still be exposed to hurricanes. This could easily happen again.

The Federal Emergency Agency offered the town's 4,000 residents a deal — market value for each of their homes. There was one catch: It was an all-or-nothing proposition. Either everybody stayed or everybody left.

"There's nothing in Princeville," one official told Knight.

"There is for me," he said.

Knight, the son of a sharecropper, had deep ties to his home. His grandfather was among the freed slaves who founded Princeville shortly after the Civil War — making it perhaps the oldest black community in the United States. The reason it was built on flood lands: That was virtually all a former slave could afford.

"Isn't it amazing? Just like Noah and those Hebrew boys, I'm starting a new life," he would say, quoting from the Bible for strength.

The old man became a symbol of Princville's enduring spirit. Black leaders across the country pressed for the community to be rebuilt, and in a narrow vote, the town survived.

Since returning home, Knight has suffered a heart attack but remains optimistic, although another hurricane could always blow through.

A local minister wryly notes that church attendance always improves when the weather reports are grim.

The Tower of the Arctic: At the dawn of the Cold War, the U.S. Army built a 14-story tower at an extreme tip of Alaska, nestled among the glaciers, to keep watch on our Soviet adversaries.

The military base at Whittier was deemed important enough to burrow a 2 ½-mile train tunnel through 4,000-foot mountains. By the early 1950s, the base housed 1,000 soldiers and was the tallest building in the state.