- Candace Schmidt
Just a week ago, people in West Virginia were eagerly awaiting the NCAA semi-final game between WVU and Duke. Bob Huggins, the coach of the WVU Mountaineers - an alumni of both the school and the basketball program knew what a victory would mean for his state. He promised that if they won the title, the whole team would take a bus and visit every nook, cranny and "holler" in the state. Now, less than one week later, the state is mourning - not the loss to Duke, but the death of at least 25 miners in Monday's blast at a mine in Montcoal. And Coach Huggins is delivering food to the victims' families. We are reminded once again of the dangers and conditions these workers and their families face every day.
I am also reminded of a wonderful historical novel, set in West Virginia coal country in the early 1900's. Storming Heaven, by Denise Giardina, offers a unique view of the turbulent decades when the struggle for union representation was at its peak. Told from the viewpoint of four different characters, Giardina gives us a glimpse of what life was like for these people trying so hard to survive. The movie, Matewan, released in 1987, was based on this novel. Unfortunately, the last time I checked, the novel was out of print. The Central Rappahannock Library still owns one copy and it is also available through interlibrary loan.