CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In West Virginia, 29 coal miners are dead. More suffering families filled the nation's television screens. They buried their dead with dignity and our hearts were broken by their grief.
In the Gulf of Mexico, 11 oil workers are dead. Their families suffered as well, burying their dead with dignity, and the sight of children mourning lost fathers broke our hearts once again.
Two disasters, viewed by most Americans from the comfort of their living rooms -- but all too real to those in Montcoal, W.Va., and Venice, La.
But at that point, the similarities between these two national tragedies came to an end, both with respect to the aftermath of the disasters and the way the government is going about investigating what happened.
The environmental destruction still ongoing as a result of the Deepwater Horizon explosion is sure to destroy a significant amount of marine life in the Gulf and perhaps beyond, as well as cause long-lasting economic disruption in coastal communities. Nearly every day, above-the-fold headlines in newspapers across America carry the story of the spreading oil spill and the well owner's failure to stop it.
The federal government, through a joint operation of the Departments of Interior and Homeland Security, has launched a comprehensive, open and public investigation into the Deepwater Horizon/Gulf oil spill disaster, including broadcasting witness interviews on the internet and making documents available for all to see.
The American public will have the opportunity to learn, firsthand, what caused the Deepwater Horizon explosion, who was responsible and what steps are being taken to both mitigate the damage done and keep it from happening again.
The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration has launched an investigation into the Upper Big Branch disaster, featuring closed, private interviews, transcripts of which will not be released to the public for months, if then. Indeed, some of those involved in the investigation have said that they would destroy photographs taken underground at the Upper Big Branch mine if the investigators themselves did not deem them germane to the investigation.