I had hoped my book on the 1943 coal mine disaster that killed 75 (Goodbye Wifes and Daughters) would inspire people to do all they can to prevent disasters like the one that happened in West Virginia yesterday. 25 dead, so far. Three from one family. A mining company, Massey, with a history of safety violations. Lives are still cheaper than fixing whatever needs to be fixed. No one knows exactly what happened yet – or at least they aren’t saying – but the fact that it happened at all is shameful. We know better….My prayers and tears go out to the families. 


  1. Hello, Susan. I am a WV native and I live in Arlington, MA. I grew up in a coal mining town in Barrackville, WV, a small hamlet in Marion County, also home to the sadly famous Monongah mine, whose own disaster was much larger in breadth and devastation than this latest one. My community was colloquially referred to as “Number 7”, which was our mine’s identification in its company’s rosters. (It was owned by Bethlehem Steel from PA). My paternal grandfather lived and worked his entire employable life in that mine, first as an operator underground, and then as management within a unionized mine. He contracted “Black Lung” in his 50’s and retired after 35 plus years with COPD, emphysema and serious cardiac disease. Despite this, he lived until he was 86. But, his productive, healthy years were very much diminished in quality due to his many ailments. He died after having relied on a daily oxygen regimen for about 5 years.
    My mother, the eldest of his 3 daughters, lives in Atlanta, GA, and we still vacation togehter in WV about 2-3 times per yearas a family with my 2 kids (10 and 7) along with my husband. The pull back to these sleepy Appalachian towns of my childhood is intense, and I’m lucky enough to have access to a “summer home” there to give my children a lasting connection to part of their roots, while maintaining mine.
    This latest mining disaster, too soon on the heels of the Sago Mine explosion, is just too much to bear. And, not ironically, it comes at the same time as China bears its own devastating losses within its own industry. The corruption you point to in your op-ed is so on target and it hits the proverbial nail directly on its steely head. My mother, my extended family, my community in Appalachia, and now my children and their father, all “adopted” sons and daughters of the proud Mountain State, have to witness yet another disaster which could have been prevented. When is enough enough? When will the Federal government finally give real teeth to the safety standards that exist on the books of law? When will men like Blankenship and Manchin, who has allowed the continued raping of our mountaintops, be forced to do the right thing, and according to the letter of the law? When will the people of WV organize, rise up and demand change ahead of commerce?
    If you decide to pursue this story in any or all of its possible links, please know there are people right in your backyard who would welcome, assist and champion your efforts to help force change in an industry that has for too long put profit above human life and the greater psychic health of whole communities.

Comments are closed.