The Times West Virginian

Opinion

December 6, 2012

Americans owe nation’s miners more than they can pay back

There are those who came before us who lost their lives.

They didn’t know when they went into the mine that day that something would happen — a spark, an explosion, a fire. They didn’t know that when they said goodbye to their families and grabbed their lunch pail that day, it would be the last time. They didn’t know their wid­ows would huddle together waiting for word, losing all hope of a safe recovery.

And they certainly did not know that through the horrific accidents that caused their deaths, our industry would learn very difficult lessons. They did not know their deaths were not in vain — others would go down into safer mines on other days because of advancements in safe­ty technology.

No, they were doing their job. They were doing what they could to put food on the table and keep shoes on the kids.

But we owe them more than we could ever pay back.

Today is Miner’s Day, a grassroots effort started right here in Marion County six years ago, and the date coincides with the death of more than 350 min­ers in the twin Monongah mines of No. 6 and No. 8 on the morning of Dec. 6, 1907 — the most horrific mine disaster our county has ever known. But the day also honors the 78 men who died Nov. 20, 1968, in an explosion at the Farmington No. 9 mine.

And the day honors the 12 miners who were killed Jan. 2, 2006, in the Sago mine in Upshur County. And the day honors those killed in smaller-scale accidents. And those who spent their careers in the mines, helping build the area’s economy. And those who still today make their living underground, mining the coal that runs our country.

The day honors the yet-to-be-identified bulldozer operator sucked into the Robinson Run slurry impoundment last week in Harrison County, as well as the 18 coal miners killed this year across the nation.

There is no currency known to man that could ever pay the debt of gratitude we owe them. But we can start by taking today and honoring miners, past, present and future.

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