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Dorothy and Naomi

Coal Miners
Chunks of coal bearing the names of the 29 miners who died in the explosion at Massey Energy Co.'s Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, W. Va. a week ago Monday, appear in a makeshift memorial in Whitesville, W.Va. on Tuesday, April 13, 2010. Workers were able to remove the bodies of the last 9 miners from the mine earlier this morning. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

It was deep within the mountain
Far below a blanket of green.
The hard winter above
Was being hastened away by spring

But way down deep where miners work
You can't find a season
And when the mountain takes away our best
You can't find a reason.

For some it is but a deep dark hole
That poisons Eden's best attempt
For others it is the mighty coal
That allows them to live as it was meant

Outside of those who live there
Montcoal isn't a well-known place
Down the road are the towns- Dorothy and Naomi
like young girls with a homely looking face

It was about three in the afternoon
On an otherwise uneventful day
When that god awful sound shook the ground
And even the ungodly began to pray

No mistaking what had happened
For those who have been around the mines
Hardly a family is free from the tragedy
That lives in the fearful side of their minds

No more birthday School plays, football games
Watching little ones being born
Twenty nine souls growing cold
As families once again. Come together to morn

Many will be taken home to be buried back on the hill
Placed next to Uncle George or maybe cousin Bill
They too met their fate in the bowels of a mine
Does this have to happen? Will there be a next time?

Our prayer to you this day, oh God
Please help us as only you can
May we discover that perfect way
To protect both life and land

We yell and scream at each other
From across the protest line
But now is the time to come together
And honor the twenty-nine

Just maybe... One day… we can think of two young girl's
Or remember two quiet little towns
When we hear the names Dorothy and Naomi
And not be reminded of the shaking of the ground

Gary Epling

About the Poem

The "Naomi" poem is a reflection of the 2010 disaster at Montcoal, WV, which claimed the lives of 29 coal miners. We can all appreciate, to some extent, the emotional rollercoaster of the family of a soldier in combat. The families of coal miners live with a very similar "unspoken fear" every day as their loved ones depart the sunshine to the depths of the earth.

Will this be the day?

Unless you come from a mining family, you cannot truly appreciate the daily anguish of dispatching your loved ones "to go into the mines."

About the Author

Gary Epling

Gary Epling was born and raised in Coal River, another small mining town, about 30 minutes from Montcoal. After several years of being away, Gary returned to his hometown after the disaster and received the inspiration to write the poem.

In Gary's words, "I am not anti-coal since many of my friends and family worked there. What I do oppose is a particular type of mining called "Mountain Top Removal". It wrecks the environment and adversely affects the health and resources of those in a community. I was terribly shaken when I climbed a mountain top ridge and looked upon the devastation cause by irresponsible mining for the sake of profit. This wasn't just any mountain, just any river, or just any land. This was the mountain God gave me to explore, enjoy and love as a growing boy. The poem only begins to capture my sorrow and my anger."