Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Dawn to sorrow

This morning brought news of an underground explosion at a coal mine in southern West Virginia. Media are reporting 25 miners dead, four missing.

Some of us grieve more than others, or differently. It's common in this part of the country to count coal miners among our ancestors, family and friends. My wife, born and raised in Morgantown, can say that her grandfather, a handful of cousins and many schoolmates' relatives worked (or still work) in the mines. Ohio's coal brought my great grandfather to America from Scotland.

To claim that Mrs. KintlaLake and I have coal dust coursing through our veins, however, wouldn't be right. In our comfort we can't grasp the hardship, the dangers, the uncertainty and inevitably the heartache that miners and their families know. That experience is the painful province of places like Montcoal, Sago, Fairview.

We do our best to understand. We grieve now because these hard-working Americans, many of whom live in abject poverty, risk and sweat and sacrifice to feed their families. We're humbled by the knowledge that their unimaginably difficult labor keeps our lights on.

Anyone who's tempted to dismiss them as "poor white trash" couldn't lift a coal miner's lunch bucket. Miners deserve no less respect than soldiers, cops and firefighters.

They'll always have my respect. This morning I join them in sorrow.