Fred Powers presents “The Dust We Leave Behind”

Marisa Meyer, Staff Reporter

On Wednesday, October 9, 2019, Fred Powers, a West Virginia coal miner, spent his evening sharing his experience of working in the coal mines. Powers gave a presentation that was free for Fairmont State University students called “The Dust We Leave Behind” at 7 pm in The Frank & Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center.

Fred Powers is a third-generation coal miner from McDowell County, West Virginia and a retired
educator. He has worked in the coal mines for about 20 years. He has earned a Bachelor of Arts in History and Education, a Masters in Arts in Special Education and a WV Certificate in Social Studies. In addition to working as a coal miner and an educator, Powers is the author of “Powerhouse: A Coal Miner’s Story” and “Powerhouse and the Tommy Knockers”.

During his presentation at the Folklife Center, Powers shared many stories that depicted his connection with the West Virginia coal mines. Even his physical presence was that of a coal miner; from the denim and dirt to the workers’ helmet featuring a headlamp. While the audience viewed his apparel, he shared his story of becoming trapped in a collapsed mine. Stuck between rock and equipment, he shouted for another worker to help him escape. His escape allowed him to share his story with others.

At the conclusion of his presentation, Powers explained the significance of storytelling and why he felt more coal miners should share their experiences. While 20 years is a long time, others have been working in the coal mines for much of their lives and so have much more to share with people.