Once again the families and the miners of WV are faced with another tragedy. The disaster in the Massey Mines on April 5, 2010 has claimed the lives of 29 miners. Like the Sago Mine incident in 2006, we are reminded, once again, of the danger that these men in the mines face daily.
In 2006, Joe Ross– singer, songwriter and educator - who resides in Roseburg, Oregon was so saddened by the Sago Mine tragedy, he wrote "Pitch Black by the Ton" as a tribute to the miners. Joe told me "pure emotion" and the poor handling of the incident by the company had moved him to write these haunting words. The song honors the memory of those who perished on that fateful day but it also highlights the safety issues in the mining industry. It is doubly tragic to me, that the strengthened safety regulations passed following the Sago disaster have not been sufficiently enforced to avoid a repeat tragedy, especially one with the magnitude of the Massey Mines. How could the authorities have overlooked over 600 safety violations in the past 18 months?
It seems especially fitting to republish Joe's song "Pitch Black by the Ton" in remembrance of those who lost their lives 4 years ago and for these 29 men who now join them in their passing.
Written by Joe Ross. Copyright 2006. Hop High Music, BMI
Lyrics are published with the permission of the songwriter
My dad told me to have courage
Anything could happen in the mines
What moves men to dig day after day
Two miles below the sunshine
It’s a tough and dirty, hard way of life
I was so proud the day I was hired
Time goes by faster down there
Don’t complain or you might get fired
Look for me under yonder hillside
It’s what I do, what I’ve always done
To support my wife and kids
Living in darkness, who needs the sun?
It’s pitch black by the ton
Another new year had come
When a blast shook Tallmansville
Methane, coal dust, a cave-in
One man was instantly killed
I went down further, with my brothers
Can’t remember how far and how deep
I prayed to again see daddy’s little girl
The hours went by, and I weeped,
It wasn’t bad, I just went to sleep.
Above there was a vigil
The enemy was time from the start
Rescue guys weren’t afraid of the devil
My wife sobbed and tried to have heart
Our families prayed for a miracle
And then dozed off in their pews
Just shy of midnight, the church bells rang
As good word came from the crews
“They’re all alive” was thought to be true.
The jubilation was short-lived
The company brought terrible news
The twelve of us had perished
Hopes and joy above turned to blues
McCloy was the only survivor
The rest of us died with our pride
Why did they do this to our loved ones?
The last words I wrote as I died
“I’ll just see you on the other side.”
"Pitch Black by the Ton" can be found on Joe's Festival Time CD available through CD Baby.