Hidden crisis in West Virginia

By Arielle Friscia
April 2, 2009

Megan Pellegrino

Over my spring break this year I went back to West Virginia. This time it was a little different because instead of just seeing poverty first hand, I saw something else; crisis that is unheard of by many people called mountain-top removal.

Mountain-top removal is when coal mining companies go on top of the serene Appalachian mountains and get coal. Coal companies have caused destruction to the top of the mountains.

A group of Cabrini students and I met with a man by the name of Larry Gibson. Gibson is one of the biggest known names in human rights activism. He has been against mountain-top removal ever since this disaster started.

I got to drive with him to the top of mountain. He is a man of many stories; he could go on for hours and hours about the issues that are going on in West Virginia.

When on top of the mountain, I was walking through “the hollow,” which is known as the neighborhood in West Virginia.

The houses were like huts and were incapable of living in. The water is no clean enough to bathe in or drink from, because it is so acidic.

Coal mining companies don’t care about human beings living up there. They are tearing apart towns.

While driving up, Larry was showing us that there was a town almost every few miles apart from each other. As he pointed to the towns, there was nothing there, just dirt and bareness.

The hardest part I would say for me was to actually stand up there and see them blowing up the mountain just to get coal. The poisonous air was going straight into the neighborhood.

The worst part about this whole situation is that the people down the mountain do not realize that they are inhaling poison into their bodies.

Cancer is one of the deadliest illnesses in West Virginia. There are so many people suffering from cancer because of the air flying above them. The children who are innocently playing outside are just breathing the bad air and not realizing it.

Down on the mountain, we went to a grocery store. It amazes me how people in West Virginia do not even realize the harm that coal companies are starting by mountain-top removal.

In the grocery store, the cashier was talking and the one thing she said to us was, “As long as they aren’t removing the cemeteries, then I don’t care.” I wish at that point I would have said, “Well they are ruining cemeteries up the mountain.”

They don’t care about destroying the memories of the people or their loved ones that have been put to rest. It is all about money to them.

This crisis is destroying the beauty of West Virginia. Students that have traveled to West Virginia have seen this crisis first hand and I am just one out of 26 who have seen this crisis. This is just one of the many stories that need to be heard.

This is a crisis that not many know about but with the stories we have formed, mountain-top removal is disgraceful and ruining the beauty of America while killing innocent lives as well.

Arielle Friscia

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