People in the big city sometimes wonder why I’m so proud to be a West Virginia hillbilly. Anyone who doesn’t understand should read this account from an AP reporter who was humbled by the hospitality of a community living through the deadliest mining tragedy in decades:
When the governor began giving press briefings at Marsh Fork Elementary School (this week happens to be spring break, so the children are out), journalists began getting comfortable at the site a few miles from the mine entrance, and we never left. By Tuesday, a couple dozen satellite trucks filled the parking lot, and classrooms with tiny chairs and paintings on the walls were turned into newsrooms and bedrooms.
And all of a sudden there was food — a lot of food. Pepperoni Pizza. Pulled pork and beans. Fried chicken, potatoes and green beans. Cookies. Crackers. Doughnuts of all stripes.
Usually I lose a few pounds while covering stories like this. The deadlines are too tight, the access to food often limited. This time, I’ll be going home a little rounder, and with a touched heart.
The food was cooked by residents and donated by businesses in this community. Some of it came by way of a local Red Cross, a Wal-Mart and a United Way, but even more was the home cooking of kind West Virginians who just wanted to take care of us.
The article’s author, Peter Prengaman, closed by quoting the principal of the school that housed him and other journalists:
“Often on TV, we are not portrayed in such a good manner. We often are portrayed as ignorant and backward,” she said. “But we are just ordinary people who live ordinary lives.”
I have to disagree. These people are extraordinary.
It’s a shame that it took a tragedy to show the world what it really means to be a redneck.