A somber anniversary

A year ago today, the world changed forever for the families of 29 miners who were killed in a massive explosion at Massey’s Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, W.Va. My buddy Ken Ward Jr. wrote about the anniversary on his Coal Tattoo blog, and in that post I think he puts the emphasis exactly where it needs to be: A year after the worst mining disaster in 40 years, what has Congress or the West Virginia Legislature or the coal industry done to make sure nothing like this ever happens again?

Stay tuned today to hear a lot of political leaders talking about coal miners … They’re going to talk about how hard working miners are, and how they put their lives on the line to provide electricity and put food on table for their families. They’re going to talk about how we need to remember and honor the dead, and about how these men (well, mostly men) who go underground are a special breed.

All those things are true.

But when you hear one of these political leaders — whether it’s Sen. Joe Manchin or Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin or Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito — try to nose your way in there and ask them exactly what they’ve done in the last year to make sure that no family every has go to through what 29 families have been forced to face over the last year.

The days when miners’ deaths were considered a regular and unavoidable part of the business should be over. There’s been a lot of progress, but the Upper Big Branch disaster proved that there has not been enough progress. Unfortunately, damn little has changed since that blast happened a year ago.

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