"Goodbye Wifes and Daughters"
By Susan Kushner Resnick
University of Nebraska Press. 262 pages. $24.95.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Like any great tragedy, West Virginia's explosion and deaths at Upper Big Branch mine captured the attention of the nation. But after the last funerals, investigations by safety experts and legislative hearings are done, it will likely fade from the national memory into a cold statistic occasionally found in official and historical documents.
This consideration makes Susan Kushner Resnick's new book, "Goodbye Wifes and Daughters," all the more poignant and timely. The disaster she chronicles is eerily similar to the one West Virginia just witnessed.
On Feb. 27, 1943, a total of 77 coal miners were working deep underground in Smith Mine #3 near Bearcreek, Mont. The mine was known to be gassy, and an explosion ripped through it, igniting a fire.
Nearly half the miners of the shift are believed to have died instantly in the blast. Valiant rescue efforts stretched out for nine days. In the end there were only three survivors -- the rest died of injuries and suffocation. Two of those dying miners signed a farewell note saying: