I'm sitting here listening to the memorial service for the miners who died in West Virgnina on April 5th. It's profoundly moving. Profoundly real despite the presence of Presidents and Vice Presidents and Congressmen and Governors. There's a beauty in the deep faith and community of people who live daily with the possibility of death. There's a beauty in the realness of their pain and their grief and their love for one another.
I don't often think much about mining, except to wish that we would shift away from coal as an energy source to solar or wind. I take fuel that warms my house and powers my lights pretty much for granted except to whine about how high the bills are. Or to think about the old time movies about miners who were at the heart of the union movement, who risked much to secure even minimal levels of safety and decent wages in return for lives risked daily. It's much better now, but accidents like this one are a reminder that greed still outweighs the lives of brave men for some people, that they will cut corners to increase their profits and hope that nobody dies as a consequence. Only people do die.
Twenty-nine people died three weeks ago so that I can have electricity. That's pretty stunning to think about. It's worse to think that it could have been avoided, that they could have continued living - living dangerous lives, but living - had better care been taken by government overseers and mining companies.
In any case, at least for the present, when I give thanks for the power that keeps light and warmth coming on gray chilly days like today, I will give thanks for the sacrifice of families who live daily with the threat of death to provide it to me. I will hold them in my prayers.
The service also reminded me for some reason of the service when my sister died, though I suspect it's very different. I felt moved by the presence of many, many people who came to mourn her passing, many who didn't know her, but came because of the tragedy of her murder, because "it could have been them." There was a community in mourning and not just a family. But that communal process - for me - took something away. It turned my grief into public theater. It took pain that was private and made it into something else. But perhaps that isn't true for these families. This is a close-knit community, mourning a true communal loss, and as I understand it, they had private funerals before this mass public memorial. There were numerous pastors who spoke, local clergy who have sat with the families, held vigil during the rescue efforts and held hands to solace grief. Joe Biden spoke. He said - and he's right - that the worst time will come when life goes back to normal for the rest of us, but that in time grief would diminish. He prayed for them that the time when life felt normal again, when happy memories begin to replace grief would come sooner than later. A good prayer. I second his wish. May God and their community comfort them in the days to come and may time ease their pain.
Guess that's all I have to say, except maybe thank you for the courage and sacrifice that these people live with daily so that my life is more comfortable. The President in his speech pointed out that the song Lean on Me was written by someone from the mining community. I thought I'd share it here.