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David Vick: Journeyman

The home football team, rough, tough, clever, victorious against the odds, filled our hearts and made us proud. Racing up and down the field, they leashed the bulldogs and made them heel. We all shared in that victory.But fear nagged from a distant hill.So much fear — mine accidents rarely have happy endings. We all knew our miners’ chances were slim. We shared that fear and we did what we know how to do. We prayed.Help us, O God, to rescue our miners etc ...Deliver them safely from the dark wet mine etc ...Protect them, O God, in their trial etc ...Let them stand with us once more in the light. AmenEtc ... . So many prayers — the air turned electric with hymns and prayer.We shared the pain of waiting without knowing, the pain of being exposed in your vulnerability to a news hungry world. So much pain. Gathered around our “hardscrabble,” wide-screen, high definition televisions, we shared that pain.Politicians hugged and reassured us that all will be done that can be done. And then the word.No one can pinpoint its origin; no one can say for sure who or where exactly but it seemed to say “Alive!”
And we, wanting so desperately to believe, we believed.So much joy. They were alive. Broad smiles and grins replaced furrowed brows. We all shared the joy. We exulted. We praised God. We sang hymns of thanksgiving. Officials told us they may not be well enough, physically, to come to the church where loved ones waited, but they were alive.And then ...
So much disbelief. “No, I’m sorry. You’ve got it wrong. You must be wrong,” we thought, “They’re alive.” And we all tried to find that authoritarian source, that official, that higher power figure to confirm what we’d heard before, what we thought we knew, what we so hoped to be true.So much sadness. No one came forward. No one seemed to know exactly where the cruel false news came from. We all shared the sadness.So much anger. How on earth could such a tragic rumor get started? We shared the anger.So much fear. So much pain. So many prayers. So much joy. So much disbelief. So much anger. So much sadness. So much anger.Near my home, a Christmas tree sprawled in the gutter. Angled upward slightly from its base, it seemed to point with expectation at some star that has yet to trail across a cloudy sky.While most Christmas trees are snuggled safely in attics gathering dust for yet another year, this one had a sad face of something used, loved and tossed — a tangible summary of our outworn hope.
Nearby on the curb, empty Hot Wheels boxes seemed to indicate a blessed, happy morning — kids, wide-eyed, gleeful.I turn from these symbols of hopeful celebration of the savior’s birth while families mourn for the men who died beneath the distant hill.Our prayers and love go to families and friends of the Sago mine disaster victims.David Vick can be reached at (304) 348-5120 at the Saturday Gazette-Mail, 1001 Virginia St. E., Charleston, WV 25301, or at
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