Sunday, August 12, 2007

Buried Alive? – No Hope?

(Earworm warning!)

If you’ve been following the news for the last week about the coal mine shaft collapse in Utah, you’ll know what I’m writing about. If not . . . well, get a newspaper.

Mine disasters happen. It’s not always the fault of greedy mine owners and companies taking safety shortcuts to enhance their profits, despite what Hollywood would have us believe. Sometimes, sure. In this case, perhaps. Last I heard it still wasn’t clear whether the seismic activity preceded, followed, or might have caused the collapse.

Most of us can feel a twinge of horror when we think of the emotional state of any surviving miners trapped in the silent, cold, blind bowels of the earth. Trying to keep hope alive. Praying, but silently as they listen for the faintest tap or whir that might signal a rescue attempt coming. Then there are the families and friends of the miners; also praying and hoping against hope for life and rescue, but silently praying that if rescue be impossible, death was quick and painless.

Whenever I hear of a mining incident I’m reminded of two songs of my (long past) youth relating to such events. These songs capture, for me, a sense of all I’m writing about today. Both were performed with haunting, distinctive harmonies.

New York Mining Disaster 1941
Bee Gees

In the event of something happening to me,
There is something I would like you all to see.
It's just a photograph of someone that I knew.

Have you seen my wife, Mr. Jones?
Do you know what it's like on the outside?
Don't go talking too loud, you'll cause a landslide, Mr. Jones.

I keep straining my ears to hear a sound.
Maybe someone is digging underground,
Or have they given up and all gone home to bed,
Thinking those who once existed must be dead.

Ballad of Spring Hill (Spring Hill Disaster)
Peggy Seeger/Ewan MacColl
Performed by Peter, Paul and Mary

In the town of Spring Hill, Nova Scotia,
Down in the heart of the Cumberland Mine,
There's blood on the coal and miners lie
In the roads that never saw sun or sky
Roads that never saw sun or sky.

Down at the coal face the miner's workin'
Rattle of the belt and the cutter's blade
Crumble of rock and the walls close round
Living and the dead men two miles down
Living and the dead men two miles down

Twelve men lay two miles from the pitshaft
Listen for the drillin' of a rescue team
Six hundred feet of coal and slag
Hope imprisoned in a three-foot seam
Hope imprisoned in a three-foot seam

Eight days passed and some were rescued
Leaving the dead to lie alone
All their lives they dug their graves
Two miles of earth for a markin' stone
Two miles of earth for a markin' stone

In the town of Spring Hill you don't sleep easy
Often the Earth will tremble and groan
When the Earth is restless, miners die
Bone and blood is the price of coal
Bone and blood is the price of coal

If you’ve heard them, you’ll know what I mean.

It’s almost ironic that the Bee Gees also recorded a disco icon; completely unrelated to what I’m about today, except for the title.

“Stayin’ Alive”


Christina said...

I have been following the story of the miners. I feel so awful for those men and their families.

Although I don't recognize either of those songs, it sounds like they capture the emotions of this type of situation perfectly.

Anonymous said...

The PP&M song has been going through my mind ever since I heard about the Utah mine. Thanks for saving me having to Google the words.

I think it is mostly the media that is responsible for trying to blame greed and corruption for any disaster. A bridge collapses and they immediately blame a crumbling infrastructure of the entire country. S**T happens.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Jan - "S**T happens". As Old Hoss would say "and so it goes". As Clint Eastwood would say "I reckon so." I don't have any better words, but it is a tragedy. Very very sad. (p.s. I do remember both of those songs.)

Hale McKay said...

...And you ween't reminded of Jimmy Dean's song ..... Big Bad John ?

The two songs you mentioned were great song nonetheless.

Peter said...

Always an emotional time when disaster strikes John, we can live in hope of a rescue.... not getting any updates in Australia now.

Anonymous said...

I remember both the songs.. Also as Hale stated.. Big bad john.. Its one of my kids favorite songs.. They've been playing them on the radio alot lately..

kenju said...

I had a cousin who married a miner. He succumed not to a cave-in, but black lung. So mining wil get you, either way. I hope they can find at least one of them alove.