Originally uploaded by joaobambu.
So all right, I was already thinking about miners, mining towns, mining families. And history. Last week, when I was in Pennsylvania, I heard the story of the Black Maria for the first time.
I heard how the mining companies used to maintain a black vehicle that served as a hearse or an ambulance as needed.
I heard how dreaded that vehicle was when it made an appearance in the towns that were built to house the miners' families.
I heard how the women in the families would go out on the ubiquitous front porches, clutching their rosary beads when one passed through the streets, praying that it would not stop in front of their house.
Sometimes the Black Maria delivered a corpse. Other times, the drivers bore a dying man up the stairs of his front porch to live out his final hours with his family.
Knowing those streets, those porches as I do, knowing the rosary beads that are still clutched in times of trouble, the image is particularly vivid to me.
Vivid, too, are the faces of the families in West Virginia who were confronted by the Black Maria yesterday. Not in the form of a hearselike car, but through the voice of a mining company executive announcing the death of twelve miners to the crowd that had gathered in a small white church.
To them, and to the nation which has lost these good men, my deepest sympathy.