When I've pictured the 6 miners stuck in the mine (I first off hope they're alive), I imagine the scenes from Oliver Stone's World Trade Center. The real life story of two port authority police officers, John McLoughlin (Nicholas Cage) and Will Jimeno (Michael Peña), is a horrible piece of the 9/11 story which shows these two guys stuck under the rubble of the World Trade Center hoping desperately to be found, not knowing what is going on beyond their dark and stark environment.
Yet, to me the tragic difference is that at least McLoughlin and Jimeno were police officers who were trapped in an effort to do their job, save lives, and were serving their country in a unique and horrific event.
The tragedy of the mine accident in Utah, are different, because these men who are trapped under a mountain, were trapped because they were digging out coal for union wages to provide for their families and line the pockets of men like Robert Murray.
A couple years ago I read the book Coal: A Human History by Barbara Freese. In the book Barbara traces the power and history of coal through many historical events and times.Arguing largely for the ecological danger, beginning with what was seen in London centuries ago, Freese makes a passionate portrayal of the dangers and influence of coal in our world, both in mind and from particulates emitted from power plants and within coal mines. Freese cites an EPA report from 2000 that suggest that in the world 30,000 people a year die from emissions from power plants (more than die from traffic accidents, homicide, or AIDs combined). She also cites that in the US 1400 coal workers die each year of "black lung," in addition to number of coal miners who actually die as the result of mining accidents.
To me, it is sad that all of this is in the name of energy. That I, as an American Consumer, am part of this problem. I don't know what the answer is, but it saddens me, because some Americans are working very hard and risking great danger so that I can have lights to turn on, air conditioning to run, a refrigerator, coffee maker, etc.
Whenever I think of coal I always think of Chris Cooper. Chris Cooper has played superbly in two very different films roles dealing with coal, once as a labor organizer and once as a miner.
In 1987, Chris Cooper did a superb job in John Sayles film, Matewan. The film is about the real life events in 1920's in West Virginia as the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) met great resistence and violence in an effort to unionize and better the horrible conditions for mine workers in "Bloody Mingo" county. In this film Cooper is the union man who witnesses these events and as an outsider tries to mediate and better the deadly conditions for these workers.
In 1999, Chris Cooper plays a miner in October Sky, an adaptation of Homer Hickman's memoirs called Rocket Boys. In this film, set in the 1950s, again in West Virginia, Chris Cooper is not-supportive of the scientific aspirations of his son (Jake Gyllenhaal). The caste system mind set of the West Virginia poor is shown through Cooper's character who's aspirations go no further than his son working his way up the ranks of the local mining system. The dangerous conditions of mining are shown in this film as well, and it's sad to think of the risk these miners were taking, at low wages, for no greater goal then digging up raw energy from the earth.
These films create images of coal mining to me, and I really do hope that the Utah miners are alive and are rescued, and I also hope that the media publicity of this event will urge people and government to think of practical long term solutions to protect miners and reduce the need for coal consumption, not just reactionary changes to how mines are monitored for safety.