'Gives You the Chills': Uniform Salesman Knows 'Faces' of the Mining Tragedy

Gives You the Chills: Uniform Salesman Knows Faces of the Mining Tragedy

Ed Persinger sits at a dusty intersection on a rural road just south of the site of Monday's mine explosion hoping business will pick up. He's been selling mining uniforms out of his truck in Raleigh County, W. Va., for more than 30 years.

Piles of overalls and utility shirts embroidered with reflective safety stripes cover his weathered maroon GMC truck with 200,000 miles, which sits parked along the road leading to the nearby mines. Persinger sits with his feet up in the driver's seat, rereading the local paper for any details he's missed about the tragedy.

Today has been a slow day, he said. Only two customers have stopped on their way home from shifts at the Upper Big Branch mine, where 25 miners were killed Monday and four remain missing.

"I don't know them by name, but I know them when I see them," Persinger said of his customers. "Gives you the chills when you think about it... I'll never see some of them again."

The tragedy has touched all corners of this small, rural community where nearly everyone knows a miner, though sometimes only by face.

Persinger, a Beckley, W. Va., native, knows the business well. His father worked in the local mines for more than 40 years before retiring in the 1950s.

For his part, Persinger has never been deep inside a mine, or wanted to.

"I wouldn't go in there," he said. "If I saw about all the accidents that happen in these mines in the paper and I worked there, I'd be looking for a new job."

West Virginia Mine Explosion Rocks Rural Town

"This won't be the last one," Persinger said of the mine tragedy.

As he walked around his truck, stacking denim work jeans and touching up shirts on hangers, his third customer of the day pulled up -- a miner from the Massey Energy Co.'s Upper Big Branch mine.

Wes Carey, 29, who finished his shift at the Upper Big Branch mine just before Monday's explosion, said he's starting to look for a new job.

"I've been there six years," he said. "I figure I won't go back."

But Carey said he doesn't expect to change his line of work. He stopped at Persinger's outpost to pick up a fresh reflective-striped shirt and a new pair of overalls.

"I'm lookin' for other mine jobs," he said.

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