>By now, I trust you’ve heard about the mine disaster at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County, West Virginia.

Earlier this week, I told my husband that the families could’ve been describing my grandfather**: man of God, family man, hard worker, humble. He had survived an accident when my Mom was just a little girl. His back was broken and he was in the hospital for a year. His doctors told him he couldn’t return to the mines. He told them, “I’ve got babies to feed.”

Still today, miners have babies to feed. So they go into the deep, dark bowels of the earth to mine the coal that provides energy for about half of the United States so we can turn on our lights, heat and cool our homes, cook food, wash clothes, watch our TV’s and browse the Internet.

In the coming weeks and months, fingers will be pointed and blame will be spread, mostly, I suspect, to the mine owner, Massey Energy Company.

People who aren’t from coal country will wonder why on earth men would go back to work in coal mines, given the danger. The short, blunt answer is, there’s not much here. Steel mills across West Virginia have been closing for the past 10 to 20 years to the point where there’s hardly any left. Good luck finding manufacturing jobs, save the Toyota Plant in Buffalo, where, when they began accepting applications, thousands of people applied. Teaching jobs are dwindling with the consolidation of schools. State jobs are ok, but it all depends on who you know. Most people are looking for jobs that will provide a decent living. It’s a sad state of affairs when Walmart is one of the largest employers in the state. Who can raise a family on minimum wage?

Much has been said about my state and my people. I can tell you that I am so proud to be a West Virginian today. I am so relieved that the media has portrayed my people with honesty, showing how hard we work and how strong we are and how we dig down deeper in our faith in times like these. Thankfully, the myths of the ignorant hillbilly have subsided and the honesty and beauty of these people have touched the hearts of people from everywhere. I’m thankful for that. It’s what I’ve known all along and is partly what keeps me here.

Please continue praying for the families of the fallen miners. Pray for peace, comfort and healing for them. Please pray for the brave men who came to rescue their comrades. Their hearts need healing, peace and comfort, too.

**The mines didn’t immediately kill Pa-paw. He died of lung cancer and Black Lung in 2006.

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