A flip of a switch

Thinking with words….. A flip of a switch.

Late Sunday afternoon as I was flipping the remote from channel to channel I accidentally came upon the memorial service from West Virginia for the 29 coal miners who had been killed in the explosion just a week before. I was struck by the scene before my eyes.

The service was not held in a magnificent cathedral, there was not a pipe organ providing the music, no visible stained glass windows, nor trappings adorning the stage. The building appeared to be a school nestled at the bottom of a mountain, on a typical West Virginia road where it seems everything is covered with coal dust. Inside the school the families and friends, ministers from local churches, and dignitaries were seated. West Virginia’s Governor Jay Rockefeller was speaking. On the front row of folding wooden chairs our Vice President Joe Biden and our President Barack Obama were awaiting their time to speak.

On the stage behind the podium were 29 crosses, each one with a hard hat placed on top and in the area behind the crosses were the pictures of 29 men whose lives were snuffed out on that morning, so deep into the bowels of that West Virginia mountain.

They had awakened early that morning, as usual, ate a hearty breakfast, looked in on their sleeping children, kissed their wives goodbye and drove down the dusty road to work, just like every other day. After getting in the tram, they turned on the small lantern lights on their helmets and began their descent deep into the unforgiving black hole of the mountain. There was probably chatter and small talk among the men, they were friends, kinfolk, a variety of ages, robust in stature, for this work, coal mining , was not for the weak or faint of heart. Coal miners are mountain men, giants among men. There is no way to tell what their last thoughts were before the explosion, but it is a safe bet some were making plans for the approaching weekend with their family, possibly doing some repair work around the house, or going to church and just resting.

I wrapped myself in the beauty of the music, the words by those who spoke and grieved with the mothers, children and other family members and friends.

We must do a better job of making the mines safe, those who play loosely with regulations and rules of safety must be held accountable. These men provide for all of us – the coal that provides the means to light our homes and make our lives better on a daily basis. I ask each of you the next time you flip the light switch on, remember these who give the ultimate for your comfort.

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