Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Miracle Denied

In the wee small hours of a West Virginia Saturday morning, Governor Joe Manchin announced the news that everyone had sensed was coming but still wanted like Hell to never have to hear: there will be no Miracle of Montcoal. The four miners whose whereabouts had been unknown since the collapse at the Upper Big Branch Mine on Monday were found. None of the four men had made it to one of the Mine's rescue chambers. None of the four had the chance to deploy his emergency breathing equipment. None of the four survived.

This week in his column in the Washington Post E.J. Dionne, Jr. wrote of the recent happenings in West Virginia far more eloquently and intelligently than I ever could. I would encourage you to take a moment and read what he wrote. And be a bit angered by it. Not by the language employed or the style in which he expressed himself but by Dionne's recitation of the history of the region and the corresponding history of reacting to a disaster such as the one at Upper Big Branch Mine with the same patterned impotence: outrage into sorrow into apparent apathy. It is a history that has been trod on the path of unrelenting sameness. A path walked in ignorant bliss of the maxim regarding insanity. Relatively speaking or not, Einstein was a f***king genius. Let us not forget that.

In the next several days the PR boys at Massey Energy will undoubtedly have their bleary-eyed CEO Don Blankenship in front of every God damned camera they can find expressing the company's anguish over what happened and the company's promise to do everything it can for the families of its 29 employees whose lives have been lost in the Upper Big Branch Mine. Mr. Blankenship and the boys from Massey Energy would be well-served to remember the words of Oscar Wilde, "No man is rich enough to buy back his past."

Dionne's column on Thursday included a quote from an American sociologist named Kai Erikson - an individual whose name I had never read nor heard before Thursday, "We live in a world in which the most vulnerable of people end up taking the brunt of disasters resulting both from natural processes and from human activities."

Sad but true. And a lesson thrust upon us again this week in the coal mines of West Virginia. A lesson forced to be endured now by the families of twenty-nine working men. Twenty-nine working men who have taken one last trip on a country road.


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