Today somebody posted on Facebook that mining isn't a job but rather a generational way of life. So true. I live less an hour from the mining tragedy, and it is a reminder that a second, one second, can change everything. My family is no longer underground, but the coal dust is still in my blood. Today I have been remembering those from decades past.
My papaw was born in 1916. Two years later, Paul's older sister, brother, and grandfather died from the Spanish Flu. He grew up at the head of a hollow as the spoiled baby of the family, and he even earned the nickname "Baby Paul". One thing Baby Paul loved to do was to bring his Daddy his lunch bucket. He walked to the mines, playing along the way, but one second in 1925 changed everything. There had been a mine explosion, and it caused the mine's roof to collapse on my great grandfather, crushing him. As the young boy approached, he saw the emergency crews,and a man came up and said, "Go tell you mother. Your Pa is dead."
My great grandmother found him on the porch crying.
My great grandparents had a wonderful love story. She had been engaged to a teacher, but she broke up with him when she saw the striking man coming over the hill on a horse. He had long "yellar" hair and deep blue eyes. She never loved another man. My daddy was her favorite grandchild, and my daddy has those deep, blue eyes. My son does as well. They are blue as the sky and can see through your soul. They also share a common name. Yes, even though 84 years have passed since that day, as long as I breathe, his story will be told.
The debate over mining will go on, but people sometimes forget that there is more. Our communities survive on this paradoxical industry and the miners who go underground daily. They are fully aware of the dangers, but they have families who depend on them. They go deep into the dark, just like my great grandfather, my grandfather, and for a brief time, my father. My prayers are with all women who have packed their buckets. My prayers are with the children who stay at the windows, waiting. My prayers are with the community who lost so many. My heart is deep in the mountains, and I hope and pray we never see anything like this again.