Coal Mining in West Virginia: A Touching Story

No, not related to the author below (as far as I know), but another concerned citizen picketing against mountaintop removal coal mining.

One of our faithful readers and supporters, WV Outpost, recently wrote an interesting, powerful, and moving article on some of her and her family’s experiences living in the heart of coal country. She is living in West Virginia and her and her husband have to write under false names for their own safety there. At the start of the article I’m quoting below, WV Outpost discusses a petition she recently signed to try to stop mountaintop removal coal mining in West Virginia. She includes her Senator’s response (pasted in full in the article) and counters a  number of assumptions and claims made in Sen. Rockefeller’s letter. She then delves into her and her family’s personal experiences with coal mining and that is the part I’m quoting at length here:

He states for over 100 years Coal has provided high paying jobs and low electricity bills. Maybe a $256.87 a month electric bill to him is low, but to our hardworking citizens and elderly people it’s not.  To my 78-yr-old Mother-In-Law it’s food and medicine for a month.  To the family who doesn’t work in the Coal industry, it’s food for the kids or a car payment. Mr. Rockefeller isn’t for WV or the Coal miners. He is for Don Blankenship and other Coal Barons who fund his campaign every four years. If he stood up for the citizens of WV, he would stand up and say WV needs more jobs other than Coal mining. Don’t get me wrong, I am 100% for the Coal miners themselves. The problem is, representatives such as Nick RahallShelley Capito and Rockefeller won’t allow any other companies in WV. Some of our Coal miners work in the Coal mines because they have no other choice, others because they enjoy that type of work. Most Coal miners have college degrees in many things, yet Coal mining is the only thing we have to offer them.

My husband has a degree in electronics engineering and 1080 hrs. in industrial electronics, but his only choice was to become a Coal miner.  He worked in the mines for two years, the toll it took on his body.. that was heartbreaking. When he would come home from work he looked like death in the face. He worked 12 hrs. a day 6 days a week — the kids and I only saw him on Saturdays and half a day on Sundays. His skin was stained black, he coughed constantly as if he had the flu.

I was 8 months pregnant with our son the day the UBB mine disaster happened, I had laid down to take a nap. When I got up my cell phone had 10 missed calls and 20  text messages on it. The calls and messages were from my two oldest daughters and my sister, asking if my husband was working. I called my 15-yr-old first and asked what was wrong. She was in a total panic and crying wanting to know if her step-dad was ok, that a mine just blew up and 12 (at the time) miners were trapped. The news didn’t report which mine or it’s location until later. When I informed her he was ok and was getting ready for work, she responded ‘NO, do not let him go back to work mommy, Please!’  I got her to calm down then called my 19-yr-old and got the same response. ‘Mommy, please don’t let him go.’ It broke my heart in two knowing he had to go to work to pay bills and take care of our babies. But what hurt the most was the fear and heartbreak that my children were feeling.

Anyway, I turned on CNN and started to watch the heartbreaking events unfold. I knew that come 9:00 pm my miner would be walking out the door to go to work. But somehow this night was different than all the other nights I told him goodbye. I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that I had never felt before in my life.  The mining pay was great, it gave us tons of nice things and plenty of money to provide for our family. But at that moment, I didn’t care if we had a dime in the bank and had to live in a tent. I was sending the love of my life, my best friend and my children’s father out the door not knowing if he would ever be back. He was killing his body and he was risking his life to provide us with worldly things, things that could be replaced. After he left, I sat and watched CNN until daylight waiting on his morning call letting me know he was coming home. Thank God in heaven I received that call.

As the evening  went on I continued to watch the events at UBB unfold. As I watched the miners families standing, praying and waiting on the news of their miner, it broke my heart. I will never forget the look on one young man’s face when a reporter ask him how he was feeling (stupid question).  His response was “it feels like I’m getting punched over and over in the stomach.”  I knew at that moment, I didn’t want my son or daughters to ever experience that feeling…. Two days later, he decided to leave the mines.

It has been 8 months now since he quit, we are all doing fine. We may not have as much money as before, but we do have the most important thing to our family and that’s DADDY!

I just wish our elected officials would see that West Virginia’s most valuable resource is our Miners themselves and not the Coal. But I’m afraid that they will continue to fight for the Coal Barons’ wallets and the campaign funding, as long as they “Keep Them in the Coal” our politicians will be fine.  Please keep our West Virginia Coal Miners in your thoughts and prayers. Never forget the ones we have lost in Sago, UBB and other places.

So touching.

Coal is the economic powerhouse of WV, as WV Outpost points out, because that is what the politicians there support. The coal industry grew strong there and now dominates the political scene. WV has a ton of other great resources, but how could a political system dominated by coal interests ever take advantage of them?

For more on this story, visit WV Outpost.

Photo Credit: Rainforest Action Network

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