Our Opinion: Mine tragedy touches, enrages nation

Monday, January 16, 2006

It is all but impossible to imagine the range of emotions that swept through the anxious West Virginia families in Tallmansville who were waiting for news of 13 coal miners trapped underground after an explosion.

These families were no strangers to mine mishaps, and they understood full well that the longer they waited, the less likely they would ever see their loved ones alive. But they kept waiting for a miracle.

The announcement late in the night that all but one of the trapped miners had been found alive appeared to be that miracle. Jubilant relatives, friends and mine officials celebrated the good news. But in under an hour, mine officials learned the grim reality that one of the miners was still alive, and the other 12 were dead. Officials waited nearly two hours to make the second announcement.

Because of the timing of the two announcements from the mine, many papers reported the good news in the morning papers. The second announcement came too late for most morning newspaper deadlines.

In our seemingly information starved society, the pressures to get the story are tremendous. Television, radio and print journalists all compete to get the story first. Unfortunately, few remember who got the story right, they only remember who was first and who was wrong.

While there are many questions that remain to be answered about how these events in Tallmansville unfolded, let's not lose sight of the fact that the loved ones of a dozen miners are dealing with levels of sorrow that deserve our sympathy and prayers.