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Mining tragedy prompts letters worldwide

THE Sunday Gazette-Mail has received many letters from around the world concerning the Sago Mine disaster.nnnEditor:I may live in Detroit, but West Virginia is dear to my heart. Some of my fondest memories are of sitting on either of my grandparents’ porches watching the trains go by loaded with coal. Both my grandfathers were West Virginia coal miners. My brother, Jerry, lives in Oak Hill.My prayers are with the families of the deceased miners. And to the survivor — may God speed your recovery.Martha SobolewskiDetroitnnnEditor:In 1965, I lost my first child to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. He was pronounced dead on arrival in the ambulance. The hospital doctor said, “Don’t give up hope. We are working to save him.”My grief process had begun, but I was filled with hope, when the waiting room door opened and the doctor asked, “Have you chosen a mortuary yet?”I understand from experience the miners’ families’ double loss. Well-meant but poorly planned lines of communication created this situation.I live in Idaho, but for generations my family has been deeply rooted in West Virginia. Some were miners. I ask myself if we know the requirements of survival for 40-plus hours before rescue. Why do we give miners only 1 1/2 hours of oxygen, uniforms that do not protect against hypothermia and primitive means of constructing a barrier against deadly gases? We would never send our military into the field so ill-prepared.I believe there is much that can be done to protect these men and women who toil far beneath the ground at great peril. Where is their champion?Judy Gardner Knipple
Boise, IdahonnnEditor:At this sorrowful time, the thoughts of all of West Virginia’s many friends in the United Kingdom are with you and the families of those lost in the Sago Mine disaster.If I may say so, the compassion and intellect of the mining company CEO, and the justifiable pride of your governor in your wonderful state have come across vividly in the United Kingdom, where events in West Virginia have been followed closely.I pray that some good may come of this disaster in terms of improved safety for those who support their families by working underground. God bless the families of those who lost their lives and the state of West Virginia.
Michael ShrimptonAylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Englandnnn Editor:I commend The Charleston Gazette for including the very powerful Jan. 4 commentary by Bob Miller on the tragic story of coal mining in West Virginia.As a former resident of West Virginia who still has family members there and who has lost several relatives to coal mining in the earlier 20th century, I can attest to the devastating role that coal has played in the lives of West Virginia’s hard-working people.West Virginians deserve more. A silver lining to this tragedy would be if the people of West Virginia finally were able to loosen the grip that mining has had on their state for over a century. The lies that the mining companies spin about West Virginians’ indebtedness to them are just that — lies. Miners and their families know the real costs of mining.The state’s overall performance in relation to almost every national economic and education standard have suffered under mining’s grip. Change needs to come before further tragedies occur. Tragedy doesn’t just refer to the ultimate cost of losing one’s life, but also refers to environmental damage, economic damage and the other tremendous costs involved.Leah KhaghaniNew York CitynnnEditor:I am appalled at the editorial “Mine safety” in the Jan. 5 Gazette. The subheading “Deaths preventable” is pure speculation and is an incredibly inflammatory statement. Given the psychic abilities of the editorial writer, there seems to be little need for a detailed investigation into the explosion since the writer obviously knows the cause of the explosion and the events preceding it.It is worth noting that, based on the facts available, it appears that exactly the opposite is true, that, in fact, the explosion and the deaths may not have been preventable under any commonly accepted mining practices short of never letting anyone go in the mine. If the explosion occurred within a sealed area of the mine, as appears likely, there is nothing that anyone could have done to have anticipated the event and, therefore, to have prevented it.The families and friends of the deceased miners have sufficient burdens to bear without giving them cause to think that rank carelessness was the cause of the deaths of their loved ones. No one could have known what was going on behind those seals in the Sago Mine.
Alan K. StaggCross LanesnnnEditor:Like most of the country, I, a college student on winter break, was transfixed by the coverage of the unfolding tragedy at the Sago Mine. My obvious concern was for the safety of the trapped miners. I also had thoughts on how my beloved West Virginia was perceived by national and international audiences.However, one recurring question continues to persist. Where was my federal government? It is apparent that the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration involvement is several days late and woefully short. Sound at all similar to FEMA in the lead-up and aftermath of Katrina? This is just another example of the how the Bush administration has failed the working people of this country.Jesse NelsonWheelingnnnEditor:Events from the Sago Mine this week brought memories of my childhood in the Whitesville area. Boone County is coal country, and I remember hearing of Farmington and Buffalo Creek and worrying about the safety of my coal-miner father.My heart breaks for the families and community in Upshur County. The Gazette is correct — coal is only one of the many areas of life which are worse under this immoral Bush administration.When those who regulate industry are cozy with corporate America, both workers and consumers pay a gigantic price. Twelve have paid with their lives this week. Accountability has been sacrificed at the altar of profit margin, with the support of the supposed Christian community.The funny thing is — West Virginia made George W. Bush president. I consider him to be the most uncaring, indecent, immoral man ever to hold that office. And it pains me that over guns, which also cause needless deaths, West Virginians, some of the wisest people in America, set that wisdom on the shelf and voted Republican two times in a row! Heaven forbid that West Virginians vote Republican for the presidency ever again.Dr. Clarence WhiteElizabethtown, Ind.nnnEditor:My ancestors John Slack and Comfort Samuels came to the Kanawha Valley from Pennsylvania and Maryland in the late 1700s, and my family was here ever since, until my siblings and I fled for greener pastures in the 1960s and ’70s. After a 30-year absence, I’ve moved back just recently.As an old/newcomer, I must say I was very proud of Gov. Joe Manchin’s visible and solid presence throughout the unfolding of the Sago Mine disaster. I find much to admire in the governor, especially because it wasn’t always that way in years gone by.However, I’m not sure the state is as well served in the U.S. Senate. Where were Sens. Robert Byrd and Jay Rockefeller when crisis struck at home? Surely, if Geraldo Rivera can get to Tallmansville, then the senators who hail from the great state of West Virginia could have found their way as well. It might not have helped, but it couldn’t have hurt.I’m sure they’ve both issued statements, but I would think more highly of them if, when push came to shove, they had actually bothered to show up.Anne LiebermanCharlestonnnnEditor:I was impressed to see that some of the press is actually reporting on the facts of the mining incident, and the reality is overwhelming.This incident could have been prevented. With now over 200 recorded safety violations, it is not hard to understand why the incident occurred in the first place. I use the word “incident” rather than “accident” based on the fact that with so many safety violations already confirmed, there is no way any part of this could be defined by using the word “accident.”Are you aware that most so-called job-related accidents could have been prevented and were not as a direct result of corporate greed and its need to cut corners in the attempt to save money? It is a shame when one is forced to witness corporate greed and realize that the almighty dollar wins out each time over the value of a human life. My heart really goes out to those families, friends and loved ones who are suffering, and I pray they are strong as corporate greed repeatedly tries to wear them down.Mary VivenziRohnert Park, Calif.nnnEditor:Could you please let the families who lost loved ones in the mining accident know that our thoughts, hearts and prayers go out to them during this very difficult time.And also let the family of the surviving miner know that our thoughts, hearts and prayers go out to them also. Thank you.Willie JonesPratt, Kan.
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