The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. - Wm. Blake

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Twelve Alive!

I can't tell you happy and relieved this makes me. Only a couple hours ago I saw that the first miner had been found dead, and I immediately feared the worst. In truth, I'd been fearing the worst since before noon; the signs were bad, and it seemed that whatever hope was being held out was for the benefit of the families. But here we are - a near-miracle. So much joy and relief for 12 families, and incredibly conflicted feelings for the family of the lost miner, whose name has not yet been released.

Although the mine in question is a couple hours or more from here, it's been treated as local news, with radio and newspaper updates all day. The parallels to the amazing "All Nine Alive" rescue at Quecreek Mine in Somerset County, PA in 2002 have brought the story even closer to home for many of us. Even though I'm not a native of the region, I know people who had friends and family in Quecreek, and it's hard to describe what the shared experience was. I think part of it was the way it tapped into the region's blue-collar, coal & steel identity: for 3 days, we were, once again, all tied to these men whose way of life is rapidly receding into history. Furthermore, coming less than a year after 9-11, and within a few miles of the Shanksville crash site, there was a palpable sense that, while 9-11 had been a helpless tragedy, with effectively no survivors in New York or Pennsylvania, here hope and struggle and community paid off. A symbol of that is this little diner-style restaurant nearby that transformed itself into Our Coal Miners Cafe, complete with photos of the Quecreek Nine, mining paraphrenalia, and coal for sale (and, I should add, quite good food).

So anyway, here's to the survivors, the bereaved, and the rescuers, and thanks be to teamwork, community, and the Mine Safety Administration.


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