I am very proud to say I was born and raised in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, a region which produces nearly two-thirds of the nation’s coal. Coal mining is just simply a way of life within the mountains.
Like most, my family originally made a living from mining coal. My grandfather began working in the mines at the young age of 13. Considered to be one of the most dangerous jobs in America, he risked his life for many years working in the mines.
Miners work in strenous conditions underground throughout their entire shift. There are several risks that one faces when choosing to be a coal miner. Mine explosions often occur because of the high amount of underground gases. This leads to miners being left underground trapped in the coal mines and has taken the lives of many.
Another very dangerous aspect of mining is the longterm effects it has on the body. With ceilings only 4 feet tall, most miners face serious back problems due to the positions they work in. Most miners also develop black lung disease if they have worked in the mines for a long period of time.
My uncle, Dr. Joesph Smiddy is considered to be one of the top physicians in the country on black lung disease. Sadly, he considers my grandfather to be one of the worst cases of black lung disease he has ever seen. The disease is formed by miner’s inhaling coal dust and it literally clings to lungs, turning them black.Because of the dangers involved with coal mining, this job is taken very seriously where I am from. I can even recall as a child, we would celebrate “coal appreciation days” at school. Most people throughout our nation do not fully understand the dangers that these men face in the mines on a daily basis. However, Spike TV has recently launched a new television series COAL, which depicts the real lives of miners in West Virginia.
The series is now on its third episode and I have been tuning in each week. As a native of this area, I must say that it really does do an excellent job in portraying the workplace of the mines and all the hardships these men endure.
Be sure to watch Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. eastern time on Spike and see the dangers these miners face each time they go underground. It is sure to change your perspective and increase your appreciation for the coal industry!