Today is a special day for many reasons. We are going to my daughter’s house to celebrate my oldest grandson’s 4th birthday. When he was born, I remember thinking that I was not worthy of the title “Papa Pettry”. My grandfather owns that title. My father is called “Papa Johnny” by my children. “”Papa Tim” just doesn’t sound right to me, so just plain “Papa” will have to do. As we celebrate the growth of our next generation, we will also take time to remember the events of September 11, 2001 and the sacrifices and memories of previous generations.
September 11th will forever be a day of remembrance for those of us who watched in horror in 2001 as our world changed in front of us. It forced all of us to question what was important in our lives and served, at least for me and my family, as a point of gathering closer together, seeking comfort in each other.
My family comes from humble beginnings in the coal country of West Virginia. Both of my grandfathers worked in the coal mines to support their large families. Eight kids in my father’s family, ten in my mother’s. That’s a lot of aunts, uncles and cousins. I’ve been blessed with a large extended family.
Last year, another tragedy occurred in the coal mine where my Grandfather worked. The mine in Montcoal, W.V. exploded taking the lives of 29 miners. It put the town of Montcoal on the global map. This, however, was not the Montcoal that I remembered.
In anticipation of my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary in 2007, I asked my father for the 8 mm videos that he had taken while we were growing up. I was able to convert the films to digital files and then create updated videos of my parents, their families and friends, and my siblings and their families. It was a joy to work on these and I watch them frequently.
Putting music to the raw 8mm videos resulted in a one hour montage of my youth. After the mine explosion, I shared the linked video of my favorite segment on YouTube, to show Montcoal in better times. (click here to see video). It is special because it includes both of my grandfathers and my great-grandmother.
Memories of the struggles that those before us have endured are what keep me moving forward. Their hard work made my life easier. Creating new memories with those who are following me is a joy and I hope that my hard work translates into a better life for them.
We need to occasionally pause to mourn the loss of our innocence, and we must never let the sacrifices of those who have gone before us go unrecognized or be forgotten. We must also work harder to create and capture new, happy memories for those who are following us.
Happy birthday, Natey Bee! Love, Papa.