I grew up the daughter of a coalminer in McDowell County, WVA in the 1940’s. My Father died of Black lung from years of work as a motorman. We rented a mine owned house with a outdoor toilet, bought groceries at a mine owner grocery. If and when the miners went on strike the rent was still due and no you couldn’t buy groceries on credit or if you did the bill was due when you went back to work. There was no health or life insurance. When your Father died you were quickly asked to leave the rental house. I was age nine when my Father died. How can you measure the loss of a Father and all that it means? Memories of my mother who will work long hours for the rest of her life, having to borrow money for my Father’s funeral and paying on that bill for many years, having to leave a community of family because there is no way to survive if you stay there, never having enough to buy a dress, always seeing other children who have both fathers and mothers and feeling left out and different. the church bringing baskets of food and used clothes.Survivor benefits, educational benefits for the children left behind, you must be kidding!!
We left WVA in order to survive and I managed to get an education. There are many scars and a deep seeded anger that things have not changed. Life in WVA is still very cheap. Only the people who work in the mines will be able to effect change. The sacrifice will have to be made to stay out of the mines, shut them down if need be, until there is enough teeth in the safety laws to provide safe working conditions, compensation for educational and health benefits for the families left behind that is beyond just welfare benefits. It is not enough to rob a man of his life and then give his family a welfare check and pretend that they have been treated fairly. West Virginians deserve more than a big screen tv and eating at MacDonalds. Perhaps this latest accident will be the powder kegg that will blow the lid off the greed and corruption that exists in the political arena that rules the WVA mines.
There is an old movie “Maitwain” with Christopher Walken which I recommend for anyone who cares about WVA and the mines.
“It’s a little like wrestling a gorilla. You don’t quit when you’re tired; you quit when the gorilla is tired.” Robert Strauss