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Letters offer sympathy, comments on Sago tragedy

THE Sago mine tragedy has prompted many letters to The Gazette.

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Editor:

I know the state has been going through a lot with the tragedy in Upshur County. I commend your governor on a great job handling the tragedy. It is a terrible event and through it all he has done a wonderful job. It makes me proud to be a West Virginian. Even though I now live in Florida my heart is and always will be in West Virginia. It is the great leadership that he has shown that will help West Virginia get through this tough time. The residents of West Virginia are fortunate to have him as governor. I think it would be nice if WVU dedicated the Sugar bowl win to the residents of Upshur County and the families who lost loved ones in the accident.

Tom Price

Tarpon Springs, FL

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Editor:

I reside in Virginia, but West Virginia is my home, my heritage and one day my dream is to return. My father Lacey Wyatt was a coal miner in Kopperston. He was injured in a roof fall in l95l, and he survived. Consequently, we had to leave the camp.

I remember the farm life hardships on Pinnacle Creek. Mother had given up her cook stove from our coal camp possessions and traded it for a cow; after all, her eight children needed milk. This life molded me into the proud woman that I am today; knowing that through all adversity comes strength.

My unyielding faith and prayers are with the families of all miners, also with the survivor and his life changing experience. The fortitude that we West Virginians, especially the coal miners, possess, will in some way open the eyes of our nation that we deserve a salute, instead of degrading ridicule from the infamous word “hillbilly.”

Devona Wyatt

Chesapeake, Va.

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Editor:

My grandfather was killed in a mine explosion near Trinidad, Colo., in 1925. Twenty years later, in 1945, my father was killed in a mine cave near Canon City, Colo. Since then, we have put man on the moon, transplanted hearts and have accomplished many other great things, yet, we are incapable of eliminating mine accidents such as the one in West Virginia.

I am outraged that we are incapable of detecting the presence of methane gas in coalmines. The death of 12 men in West Virginia was unnecessary, in my opinion. Or should my outrage be with governmental agencies and mine owners? They should be held responsible for the lack of safety.

It is my suspicion that mine owners, in an effort to save a few dollars, avoid, or at the very least minimize, safety. Government agencies are not enforcing the laws that are designed to protect coal miners. It was reported that there were over 150 violations in the West Virginia mine in the past year. Yet, they continue subjecting coal miners to work in unsafe conditions and placing them in harm’s way. Where is the justice in this? My heart and prayers go out to the families of the 12 miners who died.

Al Cordova

Canon City, Colo.

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Editor:

On behalf of our family, I would like to express sincere sympathy to the families of the coal miners who died in the recent mine explosion. With heartfelt sorrow, we have followed the news reports as mining has also affected our lives. Years ago in an underground coal mine in the Crowsnest Pass in Alberta, Canada, our brother, Joe Sikora, lost his life while trying to rescue his mining partner who was buried following an explosion in the mine. Minutes later when a second explosion occurred, Joe was also trapped. Rescuers recovered his body 45 hours later. He died of asphyxiation.

The Canadian Institute of Mining awards a Medal for Bravery to recognize great valor displayed by men of the minerals industries who knowingly risk their lives in attempting to rescue a fellow worker. As our family and many supporters continue to appeal to the CIM National Executive to award the medal to Joe posthumously despite the passage of time, we continue to mourn our loss. Our hearts go out to all the families who lost loved ones in this recent mining disaster. Your pain must be enormous.

Agnes Sikora-Fuchs

Regina

Saskatchewan, Canada

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Editor:

On Tuesday, I heard the governor on the radio bragging that he had given the worried folks of Tallmansville some good news: He had told them WVU won the Sugar Bowl. What seemed to him like a good thing to do struck me as naďve disregard for the priorities of people with family members trapped far underground. Both his Monday-night news flash and his Tuesday-morning brag seemed oddly childlike.

On Wednesday, I listened as he avoided saying why, exactly, he waited over two hours with the knowledge that the people in the church were celebrating over inaccurate information. He said he waited because they weren’t sure what the news was — which, of course, is exactly the reason he should have told them they were celebrating prematurely. It was not the job of the State Police, the clergy, Mr. Hatfield or some other company man. It was Joe Manchin’s responsibility, and he didn’t do it. Avoiding being the bearer of bad news is not childlike, but childish.

Geoff Fuller

Poca

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Editor:

As a human being, I am saddened by the Sago tragedy, and as a fellow coal miner I am grieved by the loss of 12 lives.

I wish they were here to hear the media coverage of this tragedy. I’m certain they would set the record straight on many things. They would not fault anyone for miscommunication. They would tell you all the “serious” violations were not so serious. They would tell you to stop pointing fingers so that all involved could have time to mourn.

They would tell you that they know every time they enter the mine that something like this could happen. They would tell you they are glad to earn a good living for their families. They would tell the media to shut up until you know and understand what you are talking about. They would tell you how much they appreciate the efforts put forth to save their lives.

It is a shame that after a person leaves this life that anyone can speak for them and they can neither agree nor deny. Sadly, no one will ever know exactly what happened. Please, speculate with an open mind. Be slow to accuse, and grieve with dignity.

Barry Elliott

Charleston

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Editor:

I would like to do anything that I can do to help!

Pat Karchik

Forked River, N.J.

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Editor:

One lesson learned from the tragedy of 13 trapped miners in Sago is that coal mining is excessively dangerous work and no promise of newfangled “clean coal” technology will make it any less so.

While mining accounted for only 1.3 percent of total U.S. employment in 2004, it accounted for roughly 15 percent of all workplace fatalities. So-called clean coal technologies do nothing to mitigate the safety risks inherent in digging increasingly scarce stores of high-quality coal from Appalachian hillsides.

Rather than chasing empty promises of cleaner coal, federal policymakers should focus instead on finding improved methods for harnessing the free energy of the sun, the wind and the tides. Investment in these truly clean technologies produces nearly three times as many jobs as coal, without damaging the surrounding landscape and risking countless lives. It is time we abandoned the 19th-century coal economy in favor of a more responsible national energy policy that safeguards the heath and safety of American workers.

Chris Cooper

Global Resource Action

Center for the Environment

New York, N.Y.

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Editor:

What about the fact that ICG never requested transfer of permit for Sago? Wilbur Ross was operating the mine without a permit. How did MSHA ever allow an inspection to pass in December if they never saw proper operating papers? Maybe someone like that hot-shot governor should look into that.

My grandfather, father, brother and husband were all miners. Luckily, my husband left the US Steel Maple Creek mine in 1989 to pursue another career after 15 years in. My brother, who is 54, is still working inside. This never should have happened.

Jane Renda

Bear, Del.

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Editor:

In regard to coal operations, everything Bob Miller says was true and remains true (“Coal industry’s legacy is corruption, death” in the Jan. 4 Gazette).

Like every other industry, technology has permanently replaced the armies of mine and factory workers. But for those still “lucky” to have a job, it is a race to the bottom as power to improve conditions rests with those who corrupt all policy. Darker than a dungeon is the state of affairs when ignorance and superstition are added.

The real bottom line is nobody should be dying in coal mines in the 21st century. Whether it is in Washington, D.C., Chicago or Charleston, people have to pull their “representatives’” heads out of the trough long enough to demand to know why.

I recently decided Christ and his message were too important to surrender to liars and oppressors. I think doing his will may involve casting out the moneygrubbers from our temples of democracy.

My prayers and sympathies are with the families who are now part of this tragic legacy. My 14 years in West Virginia bonded my heart forever to her heroic people. I pray for justice.

“Montani semper liberi.”

Andy Willis

Chicago

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Editor:

Gov. Joe Manchin’s involvement before and after this terrible tragedy in Upshur County is absolutely appropriate. He obviously loves his family, friends, neighbors and the people of West Virginia.

Compare Manchin’s manly, caring, natural reaction to the Sago mine disaster to President Bush’s behavior during Hurricane Katrina. Governor, West Virginians are proud of you!

Emilie A. Holroyd

Princeton

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Editor:

I worked for five years at the National Academy for Mine Health and Safety in Beckley as library director. During the time that Davitt McAteer served as undersecretary of MSHA, we were always told that our mission was to protect the health and safety of the miner.

As soon as George Bush was elected president, his first order of business was to get rid of McAteer, and then our mission was to help the coal companies. I retired soon after, unable to work in that atmosphere.

Merle Moore

Webster Springs

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Editor:

I just wish to extend my heartfelt condolences to the friends and family members of those who perished in the mine. I stayed up late on the West Coast to watch the events unfold, only to be heartbroken the same as you all.

I am so sorry, and you are all in my prayers. What this world needs now is more love, and may God be with you all.

Wendy Miklos

Lakewood, Wash.

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Editor:

In July, my husband and I visited Logan because I wanted to reconnect with the place where my father had grown up. We spent the weekend at Pipestem and drove the Coal Heritage Trail. My grandfather and his brothers had been miners; my father and uncle had both worked in the mines a short time before each moved to Detroit.

When I went to bed at midnight, the news was that 12 miners were alive. I happened to awaken at 3 a.m. only to see a news conference announcing that only one had survived. What a cruel act to allow the family and friends to celebrate for three hours when the company and the government knew the real truth. Shameful.

June Jeffries

Silver Spring, Md.

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Editor:

Sad day at Sago No. 1 mine in Tallmansville, where 13 coal miners were buried for 41 hours.

“They’re alive” came a cry, from where nobody knows. Cheers went up in the church where families were waiting for news.

With no confirmation from the governor’s office, the TV media ranted and raved about what a miraculous rescue had taken place, only to find out hours later that 12 of the 13 had perished.

Maybe it would be in the media’s best interest to forget who’s first and concentrate on what’s right.

Steve Kopa

Weirton

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Editor:

It is sad that every day we hear of brave hard working people dying both with me on the battlefield and back home. I am a 20-year-old PFC in the army and have been so moved by this event. I am in Iraq now and every chance I got I was looking and praying for the safe return of the men in that mine. Psalm 23:4, saying “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me,” holds true not only for me but to many others. Please let the family of the brave souls know that they are not alone — their brothers and sisters in God pray and mourn for the lives that were taken for their unselfish acts to keep doing their job with the risk involved. God bless them and their families.

Marc Driggers

Mt. Airy, NC


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