Let’s Remember the Miners

The Washington Post reported last month on the shocking premise of a “thrill attraction” at Kings Dominion theme park in Doswell, Va. Named Miner’s Revenge, the ride is described on the amusement park’s website as “miners that were left entombed deep underground following a mine disaster, searching for the men who left them to die and get revenge.”

Every West Virginian should be outraged by this shameful affront to all of our miners who have been lost, in addition to their families, and the thousands of folks who get up every day and go to work in West Virginia’s coal mining communities.

Two years ago, I co-founded Remember the Miners with Coach Bob Huggins and others. Our organization works diligently to build recognition for West Virginia’s coal miners. We are committed to shining a spotlight on what we call America’s “real source of energy:” the coal miner.

This is our way of reminding the nation, no matter what your political lean, to respect the extraordinary skill and bravery of miners, the contributions miners make to power America, and the pride miners have in the honorable, difficult work they do. In short, our mission is to remind people to remember the miners.

The Kings Dominion ride, as disheartening as it is, is part of a larger national misunderstanding of coal mining, the work we do and the pride we have. You see it in the corridors of power in Washington, in the media, and now as an ill-fated “attraction” at King’s Dominion.

When I was growing up, my grandfather used to say, “you better tell your story before someone tells it on you.” It’s as true now as it was then. We have to do a better job telling our story.

Telling the story of America’s real source of energy doesn’t stop and start with expressing our disappointment in Kings Dominion and the wider misunderstanding we face.

We must take it within our own hands as ordinary West Virginians to tell the story of our way of life, to explain the need for the energy we provide, and to salute the extraordinary men and women of the mining industry.

It’s the story of brave miners who’ve been lost in a job they had to build a better future for their kids. The story of men and women who get up every day and work very hard so all the rest of us can keep the lights on. It’s story of West Virginia and one we all have a vested interest in telling.

Consider the work of one coal miner. In any given nine-hour shift, that miner produces an average of 64 tons of coal, or enough coal to power 180 light bulbs for an entire year. All in a day’s work for the industrious people of the coal industry, who, by the way, generate $26 billion in annual revenue and 98 percent of electricity in West Virginia and nearly half of all of the electricity in the United States.

So ask yourself as a member of this tight knit, hardworking, essential community: which story do you want to tell? The one mocking the risk each miner endures every time he puts on his helmet; or the story of heritage, commitment, hard work, camaraderie, and legacy?

The story of a small but proud state that for generations has worked quietly, diligently, tirelessly to power this great country.

It’s our story to tell, and our obligation to tell it.

Remember the Miners is a non-profit public awareness campaign dedicated to telling the story of America’s real source of energy: the coal miner. Parsons can be contacted at jasonp@remembertheminers.org.