Tragedy teaches lessons

By Anita Doberman: Columnist

Families whose loved ones are in professions where there is a concrete possibility of losing their lives expect those in charge to live up to their responsibilities and do their best to ensure the safety of their employees, be it military personnel – active duty, retired, veterans — police officers, firefighters, miners and many others.

In light of the Aug. 6 mining tragedy in which six miners were trapped after a collapse in central Utah’s Crandall Canyon Mine, questions surrounding the cave-in, as well as proper safety measures for rescue operations, have poured in.

The Salt Lake City Tribune explained that a “bump,” or layers of earth pressing down on the mine walls, caused the collapse. Another “bump” seems to have effected a subsequent Aug. 16 incident in which three rescue workers were killed and six others injured while trying to reach the trapped victims.

I have read several articles outlining the problems with the mine and the difficulty of the rescue efforts, and listened to politicians and journalists debate mining safety and changes to existing laws.
Robert Murray, the mine co-owner, has come under scrutiny, and many have criticized his handling of the situation, questioning his safety record and his decision-making ability.

Among the conflicting reports and explanations, the one thing that stood out for me was the families’ visible grief and anguish. They have lots of questions but very few answers. The suggestion that mining shouldn’t have been conducted at all at Crandall Canyon because of safety issues must be unbearable for them.

Did those in charge fail the families and were they somehow responsible for the tragedy?

Like miners’ families, military families rely on those in charge to do the right thing, to the best of their abilities, to ensure the safety of our loved ones. A police officer’s wife, a firefighter’s mother and a deployed soldier’s son want the guarantee that those in charge of their loved ones’ lives will do their job right and not put personal and political gain or financial success above others’ lives.

Politicians and leaders have a responsibility to ensure that they have done their best to protect the lives of those who risk it all for others, so that miners’ families whose loved ones died while on their “job,” or veterans coming back from war after being injured on their “job,” can find comfort in those above and around.

It’s true that regardless of our best efforts tragedies strike. After all, we live in an imperfect world. But at the same time, there is a lot we can do to help to prevent incidents and support the families if disasters strike.

Perhaps the hope is that though mistakes are made, we are collectively and individually becoming less tolerant of injustice of any kind, and that in the future we will live up to our potential so that victims may find comfort rather than anger and unanswered questions when they confront those in charge.