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This is the first in a series of stories to commemorate the second anniversary of the explosion at the Upper Big Branch Coal Mine in Montcoal, WV on April 5th, 2010.
By Sarah Kemp
West Virginia is where I was born, raised, loved, lost, and learned every great lesson in life. I had the childhood that novelists attempt to write, filmmakers try to capture, and parents everywhere hope for their children. In West Virginia I could play with the neighborhood kids until the streetlights came on (and then run like the wind home), walk to the Farm Fresh for a drumstick on a hot day, and get patched up after an unfortunate rollerblade incident by the old lady down the street.
Although some may choose to make fun of us saying that we marry our siblings, the truth is in WV everybody is somebody’s kin. So, you look after them like you look after your own, and for that I will never be ashamed.
The 29 miners that perished 2 years ago are somebody’s kin, so as West Virginians they are our brothers as well.
They went where others wouldn’t dare. They formed a brotherhood to support each other as everyday they faced hazards. They did what they had to, so we could live a civilized life where we don’t have to think about the backbreaking work that goes into simply turning on a light.
As with most West Virginians I remembered watching the news as the tragedy unfolded wondering do I know any of the men, praying for their families, and wondering how this all happened…again.
They say that death sharpens the desire to keep your loved ones close, and take life slow, enjoying the simpler things in life.
But you see that’s what I think makes us special, it does not take death for us to realize the important things in life. As West Virginians it is simply how we live. We cherish barbeques with our loved ones, days in the wilderness hunting and fishing, and nights by the campfire. We know when to unplug and instead connect with those that matter most.
How we live is what defines us, and these men lived right. I’ve heard the saying many times, “A man is not dead, until he is forgotten.” Take the time to know these men that their legacies may continue to echo through the West Virginia hills for years to come.
When you turn out your lamp to sleep tonight, Remember the Faces of the Mines.
Sarah is a native of Wheeling, WV and a 2007 graduate of Marshall University. She is currently serving as a USO Duty Manager at Kandahar Airfield in Kandahar, Afghanistan.