I sat down to write about the men who were trapped in the West Virginia coal mine, amazed and elated that all but one survived. But no. This morning I find it's just the opposite.
Three hours after the families were told that 12 of the 13 men were alive, they were informed just the opposite: there was only one survivor.
That answers my rhetorical question, can you think of anything worse than having someone you love trapped in a mine? Sure. Being told he's alive, then being told, oops, sorry, did we say alive? We meant dead.
I always pay attention to stories of trapped coal miners, in more than the child-down-the-well kind of way. I've never done a dangerous day's work in my life, and I think of coal mining as among the worst and most dangerous livelihoods in the world.
The work itself is literally backbreaking and joint-wrenching, the conditions are psychologically and physically grueling, and the long-term consequences are your basic shortened life-expectancy by lingering, painful death. The men who do this gruesome work, historically, are little more than human shovels to the people who profit from their labour. And every day they go underground, their families know they may not return. Mining towns collectively recall every accident. Local women can reel off the names of families who've lost fathers or sons.
An excellent film about American coal workers and the battles they fought is "Matewan", written and directed by my favourite filmmaker, John Sayles. Here's the story the film is based on, from the United Mine Workers point of view.
Another work that affected me greatly was George Orwell's The Road To Wigan Pier. If you haven't read it, read at least the first part, which describes the working conditions of British and Welsh coal miners. It's something I'll never forget. Every time I hear or read about coal miners, I think of Wigan Pier.
(And, since someone will ask me: I haven't seen "Great North" yet, but I will, when it comes up in our Zip queue.)
A few years ago I read a long expose about the coal industry's ties to Dick Cheney. It was a real eye-opener. If you were to list the major industries that control the US government, you might not mention Big Coal. Yet in influence and power, Coal deserves pride of place near the very top.
I wish the article was available online, but it's not. All I find are little snippets mentioning Cheney's connection to all the energy industries: oil, nuclear, coal. But the extent to which the coal industry controls US government policy - and the semi-secret removal of mountaintops in West Virginia, changing that country forever - is rarely told. (Here are some shocking photos of mountaintop removal; this website is a good gateway to lots more information (see the "mountaintop removal" link.)
So. Twelve miners dead. My heart goes out to those families, who were so briefly given hope, only to learn it was the cruel, false variety.
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I'm a little bleary today, thanks to anniversary fun. It's taken me forever to do this one post. Today we're taking care of two new-resident tasks that are a bit overdue: applying for a credit card from a Canadian bank, and getting Ontario driver's licenses.
While looking up where to go for the licenses, we learned we were supposed to have done this within 60 days of taking residence. Oops. Hopefully there's no penalty for delaying, and if there is, I'd prefer a fine to a new driving test and application.
Hey, check out the Google home page today. Nice touch.