I was going to write today about how much seasonal allergies suck. Then I turned on the morning news and read, “25 dead, 4 missing” and I lost all sense of focus on anything else.
I have no logical reason to feel the way I do about West Virginia. I was educated there, but not born or raised. Yet, I have an affinity for the place that runs deep.
My grandfather was a miner for a time, I believe, so maybe I have some distant reason for my preoccupation with mining. Either way, there is no truly legitimate explanation for why I feel the way I do. But there it is-an unexplained loyalty and need to defend the miners of The Mountain State. If you google Naoma or Montcoal today, you might get a few hits for stories written just yesterday. That’s it. A few news roundup stories that don’t even provide the correct information. If you google Tiger Woods, there are more entries than you can even sift through. Infidelity and scandal are everywhere. 25 people died and four are still missing and you can barely find a blurb. That’s tragedy number two.
We care about the environmental effects of mining. We rally and petition and scream and yell. What about the safety of the men and women inside? Outside of the state, does anybody rally or yell about that? The mine company responsible yesterday has a history of safety violations. They were fined as recently as 2009. Did you know that? You should have. It seems in order for companies to follow the laws, people have to die. That’s tragedy number three.
The family of the man on the news today said he was a miner for 30 years and was set to retire in just five weeks. He loved his job. It “was his life, beside his family”. There is nothing wrong with loving a job that puts your life in danger. Lucky for us, there are plenty of men and women every day who walk into fires, and in front of guns. They climb high bridges and telephone or electrical poles in nothing but a simple harness. But they were never paid with “money” that only worked in the town where they lived. When tragedy strikes these men and women with other jobs, they are covered in the news as heroes-as they should be. They are not mocked for their accents or their family’s attire or, even worse, their choice of jobs. I am not saying miners are heroes, like soldiers or police or fire fighters. Trust me, they would never let me make that comparison. I am also not saying miners are indentured servants (anymore) or even victims of mining companies (although they jury’s still out on the second part). What I am saying is that they are brave, intelligent, hard working human beings who should be respected and mourned properly.
What happened in Naoma was a tragedy and not a reason for hill billy jokes.
Take a minute today to remember that. I know I will.
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