Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Unsung 'Nobodies' Surface Heroically

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Unsung 'Nobodies' Surface Heroically

Article excerpt

It has been just 10 days since the triumphant words "All nine are alive!" echoed across a field in Pennsylvania, reassuring an anxious world that nine coal miners, trapped for three days 240 feet below ground, were safe.

Yet almost as quickly as the miners appeared in our lives, they disappeared. After only a few interviews, they beat a hasty retreat to the comfort of their homes and the warm embrace of their families. They shut out the world, at least for now, leaving us hungry for more details.

Those details of their private drama and their personal lives will have to wait until next year. The men have sold their stories for $150,000 each to the Walt Disney Co., which will publish a book and produce a television movie.

Still, their inspiring examples of courage and determination linger in thought. As one construction worker told a reporter at the rescue scene, "Something like this sure can change the way you look at things."

It sure can. Suddenly, petty concerns seem less important in the context of the miners' ordeal. And the world of blue-collar labor, largely invisible to those of us who work with clean hands in comfortable offices, takes on new meaning. It also commands new respect.

In the rarefied world of white-collar jobs, it's easy to fret about glass ceilings and to forget about the barriers - limited education, training, opportunity - that keep millions from advancing. The little guy, essential as a cog in the wheels that keep the world running, remains unseen.

During the rescue effort in the mine, two 20-somethings of my acquaintance commented separately, with astonishment in their voices, that they didn't know coal mining still exists in the United States. That's invisibility.

We rightly hail the miners and their rescuers as heroes. But we forget to honor the wives and children who must live with the daily reality that their husbands and fathers work in the shadow of danger. They're the ones to whom the miners, fearing they might die, scrawled farewell notes on scraps of cardboard. …

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