In Mourning Coal Miners, A Glimpse of What America Can Be

For Dr. William Turner, the funeral ceremony for the West Virginia coal miners was a sobering and inspiring experience.

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Last Sunday's funeral service for the 29 coal miners in West Virginia was, for Dr. William Turner, a glimpse into the American spirit.

President Barack Obama, the eulogist, put our shared ideas and aims best when he said, "We are all family. We are Americans. We have to look out for one another."

To me — black, born and raised in a Southern Baptist coal-mining family in Harlan County — those words will forever resonate with the impact of President Kennedy's famous line almost 50 years ago, "Ich bin ein Berliner," ("I am a Berliner!").

Although Obama did not go so far as to say, "We are all Appalachian coal miners," he did say, to resounding applause, "Our task is to save lives from being lost in another such tragedy. To do what must be done, individually and collectively, to assure safe conditions underground. To treat our miners the way they treat each other: like family."