The Wasatch Behind: All coal miners are family
Like most members of our community, I watched events unfold in West Virginia last week with a sense of kinship toward the miners who were trapped, and the families who waited for them.
I felt a deep sense of empathy for the men who were missing. I shared the sense of urgency and frustration of the mine officials who labored to get them out. I understood the heavy weight of responsibility felt by MSHA and other government officials at the scene. I could see hurt and fatigue through the grim but resolute faces of the brave men of the mine rescue crews. I could feel the anguish of family members who prayed to God and waited for any scrap of news. I knew the concern and the pain of clergymen who sat with the families and tried to console them in their time of greatest need.
Like many members of our community, I have been there before.
People make much of the camaraderie of soldiers, that band-of-brothers mentality. Men and women who face the perils of mortal combat in wartime form a bond that transcends all ethnic, cultural, and religious ties. It happens in the coal mines too.
When you go into the portal, into the guts of the mountain, and leave the sunshine and sweet mountain air behind, a bond is formed between you and the people around you. It's like being in a spaceship. You are cutoff from the outside world. You are alone with the people you work with, come what may. You've got to take care of each other.
That mutual sense of dependence reduces us to the basic core of our shared humanity. We are brothers and sisters in the mines. We all have black hands and black faces. Each day we share the perils of a possible violent death, and the joy of breaking free of the mountain to see the sun again. It is a world where practical jokes and rowdy humor hide a crushing burden of tension, stress, and anxiety. Only adrenaline junkies, those thrill seekers who enjoy jumping from airplanes and racing motorcycles, truly like to work in the mines.
Families of miners form a special bond too. Any mother can loose a child to the mountain. Any wife a husband. School children share the burden of family members in harm's way. Wives, mothers, and daughters, reach out to each other across racial, religious, and cultural, back fences. A bond of sisterhood develops in mining towns that is hard for an outsider to define or understand.
Those things make Carbon and Emery counties unique in Utah. Here on the Wasatch behind, we've been forming that bond of brotherhood and sisterhood, that sense of family, for well over a hundred years now. Six or eight generations of us have gone into the mountain to mine the coal that feeds our families. We know the hazards, the risks, and the rewards of being miners. Our communities too, have suffered much in the way of mining disasters over the years.
And so, we reach out to the families of the West Virginia miners who won't come home again. We send our love, our prayers, and our heartfelt compassion. May God bless them in their hour of need.
And to those of us who mourn the loss from a distance this time, reach out to your brothers and sisters in the community. We are all family here in this land of coalmines. Be proud of who we are. Hug your children. Hug your spouse. And hug a mine rescue guy the next time you see one.
They are volunteers, you know.