My father and grandfather were coal miners in Virginia and West Virginia. My father was born in Dante in Russell County when it was a booming coal town. He later worked at the mine in Caretta, West Virginia for twelve years. Four of my brothers and sisters were born there in the coal fields.
My grandmother's maiden name was Elizabeth Jessee, which is where I get my first name. That side of the family also has a strong coal heritage. On the Miners Memorial in Dante that identifies the names of local people killed in mine accidents, there are a number of Jessee's listed.
I recently visited coal operations in the Norton, Wise, and Pound area of Southwest Virginia with a thirty-year veteran of the coal industry. It was very informative to see these actual coal operations, and to learn more about the history of coal mining in this region by someone who has seen it all firsthand. It was especially noteworthy to me to learn how much effort is put into the reclamation of mining sites once the coal has played out. I saw shopping centers, hospitals, highway interchanges, businesses, and others that were all located on reclaimed mining sites. I am impressed with the modern coal mining operations that allow these reclaimed sites to be used in such a productive manner after the mining is done. This is all good for the local economy, and it means jobs for people in this area.