City of Heroes: The Great Charleston Earthquake of 1886, is a riveting, heavily illustrated non-fiction book filled with gripping, first-hand accounts of the earthquake, drawn directly from newspapers, personal diaries, journals, and letters of the earthquake survivors. It will also follow the earthquake sleuths who descended upon Charleston to discover what caused the disaster. But above all, it identifies the noble and heartwarming acts of numerous unsung heroes, black and white, inspired and led by Charleston's extraordinary mayor, William A. Courtenay. Working together, they saved numerous lives, nursed the wounded, fed the hungry, sheltered the homeless, and enabled Charleston to make a full recovery from the massive disaster within eighteen months.
At 9:51 PM on August 31, 1886, William Ashmead Courtenay, the much-respected mayor of Charleston, South Carolina, was relaxing aboard the Etruria, an elite Cunard Line luxury liner bound for New York from Liverpool. At that same moment, the most powerful earthquake ever to strike the East Coast rolled through South Carolina and devastated Charleston, killing over 150 people and damaging or destroying over 90% of the historic city's masonry buildings within sixty seconds. Within ten minutes, it had spread its terror throughout half the nation, causing panic and damage as far north as Toronto, east to Long Island, south to Cuba, and west to St. Louis. The nation was stunned. No one in Charleston, or anywhere on the East coast, ever thought such an unthinkable catastrophe of such magnitude could possibly strike east of the Mississippi. They were very, very wrong.