This isn't the first time. It won't be the last. Coal is the backbone of West Virginia. Generations of Appalachian families have worked the mines. And generations of Appalachian men have died in them.This is my granddaddy, Charlie, on his wedding day. He is seventeen years old, and employed as a moonshine runner. Meaning he drives cars loaded with illegal whiskey along dark mountain roads, without headlights, sometimes at high speeds. Sometime before his nineteenth birthday, he will go to work in a mine. And within a couple years he will almost die in a mine fire, taking months to recouperate with first and second degree burns all over his body. He was one of the few who were carried out.
Monday, April 5, 2010
Tonight there's a mining disaster over in our neighbor state. News reports are spotty, with seven miners dead so far, and nineteen unaccounted for. We can only hope that the safe rooms were accessible, and the oxygen holds out. Right now, there is a small white mountain church full of wives and children, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, all waiting.
Charlie left the mine after that, refusing to go back. Running moonshine is safer. Anything is safer.