01/05/06 — Poignant loss: Miners who perished will be remembered for how they lived

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Poignant loss: Miners who perished will be remembered for how they lived

There is something about the story about the 12 miners who lost their lives this week in a West Virginia coal mine that has touched the hearts of many people across this country.

It is not just the horror that they must have experienced in the mine — or that there are rumors that some of them, knowing the danger they faced, took the time to write final messages to their families.

Although all of that is heartbreaking in itself.

It is not even the alternating euphoria and heartbreak of the families as they first heard their loved ones were safe, and then learned all but one miner had died in the mine. And it is not just that this mine had a history of violations that made this accident possibly preventable.

All of those were reasons to follow the story, but not to be captivated by it.

What makes this story ring so true for so many is that these were simple people doing a job. No frills or fancy titles here. Many of these men probably didn’t have much education.

They did not have expensive cars or massive houses. They lived simple lives that centered around, for many of them, their families.

And some of their surviving children interviewed this week said their dads wanted more for them than working in a coal mine. Some of the men lost in the mine this week were working there so their sons and daughters could attend college.

These were just men from a small community in the hills who worked to make better lives for their families — the only way many of them knew.

They will be remembered for the lives they touched — and some made an impact on many over the years. Their legacies will be the children they left behind.

They should not be remembered simply for how they died.

There will be much more discussion of this accident over the next few months. Questions about safety and the future of the mining business will also be hot topics.

Those are issues that need to be examined carefully.

But as the investigation continues, we should never forget the 12 lives lost this week.

They meant something.

Published in Editorials on January 5, 2006 10:49 AM