A Coal Mining Blast Hits Close to Home

It is with sadness that I read today of the death of numerous coal miners across the border in West Virginia.  They died in an explosion during a shift change, which increased the casualities.

Such tragedy hits close to home in many ways.  For one, I live fairly close to the state in southwest Virginia.  More significantly, my grandfather was a coal miner.

I recall mygrandfather’s job in coal in vague terms.  It was on the periphery of his role as my mother’s Dad and my grandmother’s husband.  Still, there are a few memories.

The recollection that sticks closest in my mind is an image of my grandfather coming home decked out in work clothes and a helmet, covered in coal dust.  He was a white guy in blackface, a la Al Jolson.  I have a picture in my mind of his smiling face peering out from under all that coal dust.

I know my grandfather got up early, something like 4:30 in the morning, to go to work.  I slept on the living room couch during our visits there, so when my grandparents arose during the wee hours I heard the rustling and saw their misty figures moving around.  My grandmother got up to fix him breakfast at that hour.

It was during visits to West Virginia that I learned of terms as “black lung” and “United Mine Workers”.  Trains laden with coal were a regular sight, as were mountains laid bare by strip mining.    Coal was the symbol and economic livelehood of the people of the state.

I thought in today’s green environment that coal was either on its way out or had already made its exit as a main power source.  Surprisingly, it is still the main source of electricity in the United States.

However, industrial notes aside, the accident in Montcoal, West Virginia is personal.  A look at the town on the map also brings up Madison and Danville, the two towns closest to my grandparents’ home in a little settlement called Sea Coal.   I traveled through that area numerous times as a child.

Mainly though, it is personal because coal mining was part of my grandfather’s identity. I have fond memories of him and the people around him over there in West Virginia.  Today, I feel for those over there affected by this calamity.

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1 Comment

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One response to “A Coal Mining Blast Hits Close to Home

  1. Susie

    Had the exact sentiments and memories.

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