The past week our news has been filled with stories of the Chilean miners who had been stuck 2,000 miles underground from 5 Aug 2010 until 13 Oct 2010. For most, 13 is an unlucky number, for these miners I am sure it will forever be a lucky number. I find it unreal that if you add up the digits of the date (10+13+10), you get 33, the number of miners that had been trapped in the mine. I sat and watched hours of the BBC coverage of this on Tuesday Oct 12, waiting for them to pull the first miner to safety and watch as he reunited back into the arms of his family members. At about 12:05am (roughly) on Wednesday the 13th, I was happy to have witnessed this event. I knew to bring all the miners up it was going to take hours, maybe even another day or so. Knowing that, I headed to bed for the evening.
When I woke the next morning, I made sure that the news was on. So that as my day progressed I could still keep an eye on what was going on at Camp Hope. My heart was breaking for all these families. I could not imagine what it would be like for a family not to see their son, husband, father or brother for over 2 months. It is different if your family has moved away, it is expected that you will not see them for a while. But, to have a loved one go off to work and expect that you will see them later in the day, and then that day a tragedy hits. You do not know if your loved one is alive, then after 17 agonizing days you get words that all 33 men are alive, and together! What wonderful news.
That great news is followed by words that any family member would dread to hear, it could be Christmas before we get them out.
To everyone that has helped with the rescue of miners, you are all heroes! Be proud of what you have done, the families of these men are forever grateful for all you have done to reunite their families.
I am sure some of you are wondering why I would write about this here. The answer is simple, I come from a family of coal miners. I am lucky enough that my family moved away from the coal mines in the late 1950’s and settled in Chicago, IL. If that had not happened, I would not be here to reflect on all of this.
My maternal grandfather, William H Richmond was a coal miner in West Virginia, as well as his dad, his grandfather and his father-in-law. Since I do not know much about their times as miners, I can only write about things I have been told by my grandma and mom.
Simply put, coal mining is a very dangerous job. The reason my family moved from WV to IL is because the mine superintendent told Bill (my grandfather) that he needed to look for a different job. Bill was accident prone and they were afraid the mines would kill him. This is something I learned as an adult, so I never got to talk with my grandfather about this.
My grandmother told me that he had many severe accidents in the mine, one of them broke his pelvis and he was not supposed to walk again. I have not found any newspaper articles to support this story so far, but I have not put much effort into looking either.
As for my grandma’s dad, Joe Lachney, he was a miner in IN and then WV. Joe was in a mine explosion and was badly burned from it. He had lost part of his ear and had bad scars under his arms. The scarring was so bad that it appeared he became webbed under his arms. One cousin made the comment that “he was the original bat man,” no cape needed. Joe died when I was about four, so I really do not remember any of this. What I share is stories I have from others.
So, as I reflect on all that has happened for these 33 families I am thankful my immediate family has moved away from this hard life. I do have distant relatives still in WV and I am sure there are still family members in the mines. I pray that they are all safe as they work. I could not imagine the thought of this happening in my family.