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Thread: Tweleve WV Miners

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    benzleasr's Avatar
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    Default Tweleve WV Miners

    The death of the 12 WV miners hit hard for me.

    I live in WV and after assisting with a historical photographic study of the miners in WV with master photographer Jay Stock in 2005, my heart is heavy for the men and families of the tweleve miners who did not survive.

    I have vivid pictures myself imagining the scene they must have experienced. One that haunts me is where all the men took off their hats, held them to their hearts, bowed their heads and prayed together before they entered the dark mine shaft.

    Going inside the mines catapulted my appreciation for what these guys do for a living. Around 50% of the electric we enjoy comes from coal. I think of them every time I turn my lights on now. They face death daily in a way most of us will never understand.

    The mines I visited with Mr. Stock was only 31 inches high if you can imagine and we traveled approximately two miles inside the mines to take the photographs. (I think this is the same distance these miners had traveled. It took about 20 minutes riding the electric car lying down.)

    I remember riding in on the man-trip how I had to turn my hard-hat sideways sometimes because the bill of my hat was scraping the black ceiling top. I will never forget the dark, chilly smell of the coal.

    I can not imagine how it terrible it must have felt to be sandwiched between those two dark layers of rock, thinking of their families outside with only the lights of their hats lighting the way. I hope they did not suffer.

    After loosing my own brother-in-law last week on Christmas day, my heart is heavy for everyone involved. Saying many prayers in WV....Peg
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    Wow, Peg - I think your post really brought it closer to home for all of us. And I'm so sorry for the loss of your brother-in-law. Praying for your family and the WV miner families...

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    Im sorry about your brother-in-law. I have always been impressed by how hardcore you have to be to do what those guys do. Here's to them all:


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    oh Bennie................i'm so sorry.................
    Kinda puts things in perspective now.
    God Bless you ALL!

    MiMi

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    Wow! What a powerful picture CThree!
    Thanks for sharing.

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    Here are some Peg sent me to host for her and what fllows is her included note-2 very cool pictures:

    A NOTE ABOUT THE IMAGES:
    :
    Along with the sad news of my other brother-in-law's death on Christmas day, we also received wonderful news of my younger sister's engagement to the pictured WV miner. She lives in Charlotte, NC. Turns out my recently widowed older sister introduced the over 5 years ago and they have continued a long distance relationship ever since.

    To add to the irony, her fiance' works at the Southern, WV mines where Jay Stock and I did the photographic documentary. His coworkers teased him unmercifully, asking if his girlfriend looked like me. This is an actual image taken after the men came out of the mines at 3 PM. We were there at 5:30 AM to film them going in and returned for their exit to get photographs while they were soiled. This same picture now adorns all of Mr. Stock's return address and mailing labels. I'm sure it's been around the world.

    Master Photographer Stock wouldn't mind me sharing the silver gelatin image as a tribute to the miners all over the world. This one was given to me as a gift for my assistance in the project since my sister was dating him. Please note the copyright on the images belong solely Mr. Stock. I have prior, verbal permission to share it, but it cannot be duplicated nor sold. .

    Silver gelatin images are nearing extinction and as I understand it, Mr. Stock has possibly one more year of paper supply left and when used, there is none left in the world. His last supply came from Europe. I count it a tribute to even own one. You can imagine my surprise when I received another signed image from him for Christmas. This time it was one he took of "me" inside the mines.

    The second, color picture is of me exiting the mines. We held 7 sessions at various mines, but only went inside once. We were inside approximately 2-3 hours. We had to crawl on our hands and knees in the black muck, which they do every day. (Note the knee pads my brother-in-law is wearing.)

    Ceiling to floor, the space was only thirty-one inches high. The only light you have is what is on your hat. They shout into the pitch black at each other for communication. From what I understand, the twelve trapped men in Upsur County were in four foot coal.

    The yellow machinery I'm sitting on is how the miners enter and exit lying on their backs. I am sitting up in this picture, which I wouldn't have been able to do inside the mines. I had to don steel toed boots and reflective clothing to go inside. I have attached to my belt, the safety oxygen mentioned on the news, which lasts for about an hour if needed. Once inside the mines, the average temperature is about 55 degrees year round. It was wonderfully comfortable and the air refreshing. There is a constant breeze which makes breathing actually more comfortable than you are probably experiencing at this moment.

    You would only need the oxygen if there is a gas leak. In olden days, they took a canary in a small cage inside with them to detect gas. If the bird died, you ran for your life. Computerized, digital detectors are used now. Also, they considered it unlucky for women to go inside the mines. Many suspect it was an excuse to prevent the women from wanting to work there to protect them.

    Overall, Mr. Stock took over 5,000 photographs. He donates the color photographs back to his subjects, keeping the negatives himself and produces the black and white images in his private gallery. The miners and their families now have professional photographs of themselves on the job. Out of the thousands of photographs taken, there are probably only about 250-300 that would be considered museum quality and are not sold individually.

    Yes, my face really is black from the coal dust and my oversized boots are weighted down in mud. I have already removed my knee pads. What a wonderful, once-in-a lifetime event for me. I hope you can enjoy.

    ~ Peg




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    Thanks for the kind words of support. It is much appreciated. Peg
    Dreams really do come true!

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    (((((((((((PEG & FAMILY)))))))))))))))

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    ((((((((twelevepeeps)))))))))

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    benzleasr,

    I just came across this thread today.

    I want to offer my condolences for your brother-in-law. I hope your family is doing well.

    Also, the experience and the superb photos you've shared on the miners add a very poignant insight to the tragedy. I'm sure what has happened to the mining community has been felt nationally. Thank you for sharing.

    A fellow Trover,

    - Mark

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    Mark, I sincerely appreciated your comments. Unfortunately, it takes a tradegy to get attention to problems in our society. The miners have given much to insure our comforts. My heart was so heavy the day I sent in those pictures. The pain was close to me not only through my family but from my own experience with Mr. Stock.

    My family is saddned for the loss of my brother-in-law, as well as the miners in Upsher Co., but we get on. Death has no respect for social levels. Everyone gets their fair share.

    The little coal mining community where my sister lives has contributed so much, I could write a book. The two churches where he attended regularly has already given my sister enough to pay for the funeral and donations are still coming in. Although I don't live in the Southern mining community any longer, but I'm glad to share their spirit, pride and their hearts.

    Thanks, again. Peg
    Dreams really do come true!

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