April 06, 2010

Upper Big Branch mine disaster

I've been blogging this week from Okinawa, where the time is 13 hours earlier than in West Virginia. Yesterday morning (Monday evening WV time) as I was getting ready to go with my group to another day of karate training I got an email from my daughter that at least six miners had been killed, 21 were missing and 30 badly injured.

The news was on my mind all day. Things looked awful from that early report, but I never expected it to be this bad. With 25 deaths, this makes it the worst US mining disaster in 25 years. I hate to be out of state when something like this happens, even though there's nothing I could do at this point if I was there.

It looks like rescue efforts have been suspended for the time being as the methane problem is dealt with. I can only imagine the agony of family members and loved ones as they wait.

I have the good fortune to be training this week with many highly intelligent, compassionate and motivated people. Those I've spoken with have been horrified at the news, but unless you come from a place like West Virginia, stories about mine disasters must sound like something from another world rather than an all too familiar part of life and history.

For all our differences, I've always thought of West Virginians as a kind of tribal people who share things that are often unspoken but deeply ingrained. It's hard to be away from the tribe at a time like this.

I'm going to be following Ken Ward's coverage from the Charleston Gazette (www.wvgazette.com) and his Coal Tattoo blog. Here's the coverage from the NY Times and a good article on the mine's safety record by Ry Rivard at the Charleston Daily Mail.

Given the company's record, I can't say I'm surprised to learn of a fatality at a Massey mine, but I never expected anything like this. Again, my thoughts are with the injured, the missing and the dead and with all those who care about them.


Anonymous said...

nice post dad...

Ex Pluribus Unum said...

I am following your trip to Okinawa with great interest ... I am into aikido ... and I am also following the mine thing. I follow your blog because I spent 14 months in Charleston... loved the place and the people. There is a book to be written about my time there. I just sent a note down to the folks at the CAMC with a link to a white paper I wrote. I have an intimate relationship with those people, as they saved my life before, during and after open heart surgery. I had a peri-operative stroke and spent 8 weeks in rehab where they taught me how to do everything all over again. I'm fine and well now, and ambulatory, etc. Before I got there, as pushed and Mused by one of the angels involved in my care, I wrote this:

"Coalescing Effective Community Disaster Response:
Simulation and Virtual Communities of Practice", December 2005

Do what you can with it.

El Cabrero said...

Thanks, Cabrita.

Ex Pluribus, thank your for the comment. I will read it ASAP.

I survived open heart as well and my daughter (see above) is interning where you were.

Ex Pluribus Unum said...

El Cabrero, a "zippered" brother, and you are doing karate-kata? There is hope for my return to the tatami. Give my best to Cabrita; I have nothing but praise for the institution and its people. The reading can wait until you return; there is nothing there that will (or could have) saved the miners this time. Next time depends on the push for mine safety, but there is a clue or two there for development of community support. Bless the families and the people; there is a ruggedness, depth, strength and pride in West Virginians that is rare among Americans and quite admirable.

The EDG said...

The tribe misses you being here. Agreed, an accident is not surprising, but this level of loss and pain is shocking to even the hardened. Come home soon.