Report from the field: West Virginia
The 29 miners killed in the April 5 methane explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine have been laid to rest, but signs of a community in deep mourning are still visible in the coal towns that line West Virginia’s Coal River Valley. Hand-scrawled messages in the windows of homes and businesses urge passers-by to “pray for our miners and their families,” as do billboards in front of churches with names like Amazing Grace and Healing Stream.
Candles have been lit in the darkness and wreaths have been laid at the Coal Miners Memorial Statue at the State Capitol. President Obama delivered a eulogy at a memorial service in Beckley on April 25.
And now it is time to ask why this disaster occurred. The state and federal government have named teams to probe the cause of the blast and determine if laws were violated. Governor Joe Manchin has asked national safety expert Davitt McAteer to conduct an independent investigation and make recommendations as to what can be done to prevent future tragedies. All these efforts will take months and won’t bring back lost loved ones. But at best, these probes will provide answers about April 5 and help bring a nationwide renewed commitment to safe mines. There are more refections avialable on our Goatrope blog.