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article imageOp-Ed: The Waiting Widows of the West Virginia Coal Mine

By Kim I. Hartman     Apr 9, 2010 in World
As long as we have coal mines in the state of West Virginia we will always have children without fathers, mothers without sons, sisters without brothers and the empty arms of the coal miners' waiting widow.
When the methane gas explosion occurred at West Virginia's Upper Big Branch mine, people from miles around knew without hearing the names of the men who perished, that they had lost a friend or a relative among these 25 known dead miners.
West Virginia has a long history of coal mining and mining disasters and each of these tragedies have had lasting effects on the communities where often multiple members of the same families who work as a team are killed and die together in the mines.
Young men follow their father's footsteps into these dangerous mines where they work with their brothers, uncles, cousins and even with their grandfathers to mine the coal that so many depend upon in this Appalachian region for their livelihood.
It is tradition and for many it is a way of life. These men know the danger and are willing to roll the dice and risk their lives to provide for their families as they have seen the men around them do since birth. It is the only life they know and they have all suffered the loss of family members who have entered the mines as one and not returned alive.
Men of all ages proudly go into these underground mines and work shoulder to shoulder. Inside these cramped working spaces they watch over each other and when disaster strikes entire families are often left with no adult men surviving. There are many communities that have been left with very few men alive throughout the state.
The ones who safely make it out of the mines each day to go home at night eventually become victims of the totally disabling Black Lung Disease after years of breathing and inhaling dust and fumes inside the mines where they work hard each and every day to earn a living in these mountainous rural communities.
In the 1907 mining disaster at the Fairmont Coal Company Mine in West Virginia 362 casualties of the Monongah's coal mine explosion left more than 1,000 widows and children according to the United States Department of Labor's Mine Safety and Health Administration records. Rescue efforts were delayed when very few men could be found in the town including mining officials to enter the mine in search of survivors.
Entrance to the Fairmont Mine
Entrance to the Fairmont Mine
West Virginia
Two disasters and explosions at the Eccles Mine in West Virginia in 1914 and 1926 claimed the lives of more than 200 men, leaving another community of fatherless children and added an additional two hundred more widow's to the West Virginia's coal miner's legacy.
The people across the state and in this small community of Montcoal can still recall the explosion at the Sago Mine in 2006 that took the lives of 12 more miners of this state and added more names of surviving widows to this growing list of causalities in the coal heritage of West Virginia.
Sago Coal Mine disaster memorial in Philippi West Virginia
Sago Coal Mine disaster memorial in Philippi West Virginia
State of West Virginia- Gov. Joe Manchin
The Montcoal explosion will be no different then the other mining disasters in the state. A few more dozen widow's and mother's without sons will become part of the tragic stories in the state's mining history.
The Davis family of West Virginia lost three members to Upper Big Branch mine including Timmy Davis Sr., Josh Napper and Cory Davis as history repeats itself once again in yet another West Virginia coal mining hollow.
This evening as driving rain covers the state, rescue workers wait for the methane gas levels to drop so they can go back underground and continue the search for the four unaccounted for men.
Chris Adkins, Massey Energy vice president, said "I still believe in God, and I believe," Adkins told reporters during a briefing shortly after 1 p.m. "I'm not going to give up." according to the Charleston Gazette.
These coal mining families wont give up either and they won't leave each other in the mine. They depend on each other. They are raised together. They go to school together and they pray together. Today they work together with the ferocity of the Fighting Sullivan brothers to protect each other during the rescue operations, and to care for each others families as they await an end to this disaster.
The proud miners of West Virginia and the rescue teams will not stop until they recover the remains of each brother, father, son and husband who perished in the Upper Big Branch mine disaster and return them to the arm's of the waiting widows.
The widows waiting at the Fairmont Mine Disaster in 1907
The widows waiting at the Fairmont Mine Disaster in 1907
Mine Safety and Health Administration of Dept of Labor
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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