The West Frankfort Mine Disaster - a parable for today?

  June 17, 2020

An On-Line Publication of the Anonymous Anything Society

Familiarity Breeds Contempt

    I came from a family of coal miners. Both of my grandfathers, four uncles, my father and brother followed them in the highest paying, and other than men who defuse bombs, the most dangerous occupation in the world.

    On December 21st 1951, a few weeks after my leaving the trade underground for my first position in broadcasting at a small-town radio broadcasting station, WFRX, located in West Frankfort, Illinois, 119 miners, were killed in Orient #2, at the time the largest coal mine in the world, by a dual explosion that was preventable.

    Coal exudes methane gas. When a small amount of it was ignited by some sort of spark, possibly from an electric motor, the explosion propelled coal-dust into the air in every section of the mine. Coal dust is a hydrocarbon and as it was at that moment suspended in a proportion in the air of the workings to constitute an even greater explosive. It was as if the miners were all  in the barrel of a cannon.

    I saw my friends and neighbors laid out on the floor of the high school gymnasium. Federal Mine inspectors declared that this disaster could have been avoided had there been proper ventilation and both water and lime dust applied to the working environment.

Arizona New Covid Cases - Trending
    The State Mine safety inspectors knew this was so, as did the leaders of the local miners’ union and the miners themselves. The process had continued despite all of the warning signs.

    When I see people, including the Governor of Arizona, treating with the fact that more than seven thousand infectious Arizonans are among us, spreading Covid-19; a 54% spike in infections in one week, I cannot help remember the absence of good sense, when it is apparent that the relaxation of good practices will help bring about a far greater number of deaths.

    I’m trying to ignore the idiots on the beaches and bars who decry practices that are effective. I’ll let people somewhere else worry about their health and welfare

    -Phil Richardson, Storyteller and Observer of the Human Condition

Our unending thanks to Jim Bromley, who programs our Archive of Prior Commentaries

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