New Episodes Launch Each Wednesday!

Close this search box.

The Unseen Negative Impacts Of Coal Mining With Isabel Reddy, Author Of That You Remember

Watch the episode here

Listen to the podcast here

In 1972, the Buffalo Creek Disaster took place, where coal mining waste dams failed and caused severe flooding. This resulted in 125 casualties, while thousands were either left injured or homeless. Isabel Reddy does not want people to forget about this disaster. She is now on a mission to encourage everyone to call out poor business practices that cause destruction and save vulnerable areas from suffering. She joins Corinna Bellizzi to talk about her book, That You Remember, which is loosely based on the Buffalo Creek Disaster. Isabel explains how fictionalized stories can inspire readers to push for actual change and not simply sweep disasters under the rug. She talks about her experiences living in a small town and why such places should be protected from destructive corporate projects. Isabel also shares her inspirations in creating her characters, particularly the woman she saw on a videotape about the Buffalo Creek Disaster that became her story’s protagonist.

About Isabel Reddy

CMBB Isabel Reddy | Coal Mining

Isabel Reddy began her career in clinical research as a science writer. She has been a guest columnist for numerous newspapers and she is working on her MFA in Writing at Goddard College. Ms. Reddy lives in North Carolina with her husband and German Shepherd, Mac.

Guest Website:

Show Notes:

00:00 – Introduction

05:26 – The real-life disaster behind the book

14:34 – Inspiration behind the characters

19:21 – Small town setting

23:15 – Rural culture vs. urban culture

34:06 – Tipple

25:05 – Plans for a next book

39:59 – A young woman’s poem

41:49 – Closing words

Join the Care More. Be Better. Community! (Social Links Below)








Support Care More. Be Better: A Social Impact + Sustainability Podcast

Care More. Be Better. is not backed by any company. We answer only to our collective conscience. As a listener, reader, and subscriber you are part of this pod and this community and we are honored to have your support. If you can, please help finance the show ( Thank you, now and always, for your support as we get this thing started!

The Unseen Negative Impacts Of Coal Mining With Isabel Reddy, Author Of That You Remember

The Power Of Fiction To Influence People And Push For Change

I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to talk a little bit more deeply with you about things like energy, green energy, dirty energy like coal, and the extractive business practices that have gotten us into our present predicament, but to do this through the power of story. The reality is that we experience worsening disasters, floods, fires, and out-of-control weather systems that create sometimes perilous conditions for many. The global south suffers. Rural areas get hit the hardest.

Now, we get to explore all of these topics and more as we get to know Isabel Reddy. Isabel Reddy began her career in clinical research as a science writer. This is something that shows in her work. She’s been a guest columnist for numerous newspapers. She is working on her MFA in writing at Goddard College. Ms. Reddy lives in North Carolina with her husband and German Shepherd, Mac. This is her first novel that we’re going to talk about and it’s called That You Remember. Isabel, I’m going to welcome you right up to the stage and say thank you for joining me and thank you for this beautiful book.

CMBB Isabel Reddy | Coal Mining
That You Remember

Thank you for having me. I appreciate your kind words.

Reading is something I enjoy. I often don’t make enough time for it outside of the space of non-fiction, often for non-fiction authors. I’m making time for it on this show as I am learning more about the crisis that we confront in a variety of capacities, whether it be socially or from a sustainable and climate-action perspective. I felt like I was transported to my teen years in a way when I was able to ravenously read a book like To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, through your prose. In fact, I found myself reminded of her work as I read this.

Thank you. That’s incredibly high praise to say that.

It was not something I necessarily expected. As we get started, I’m saying thank you for writing this. I’m somebody who has read a lot of realist works in my time because I enjoy the perspective of works that transport you into the reality of what living in a particular time and situation could be. The questions that I have for you that relate to this partly come from your experience and want to bring this story to light in the first place, but then into having a discussion about how you’re able to transport yourself in two different times and the reality of this book. Why don’t we start with that? What compelled you to write That You Remember?

In addition to my writing career, I have 30 years of experience teaching. I’ve taught about every age that exists. When I went into the school age, I started with adults, then I taught preschool and went into the school age. I taught the alternative learner in a school for students that were removed from public school.

In that, in the Durham Public Schools curriculum, we read Kai Erickson. He’s a sociologist and he did a study of the Buffalo Creek, West Virginia area and the results of the disaster of February 26th, 1972. It was called Everything in Its Path, that book. We studied it. I taught it. They did dioramas and projects. In reading about that, I read that Pittston Coal Company was a responsible coal company. I don’t know if you know, Corinna, but my father was a past president of that coal company.

CMBB Isabel Reddy | Coal Mining
Everything in Its Path: Destruction of Community in the Buffalo Creek Flood

It triggered my interest. Ten years after that, unbeknownst to me on my doorstep, arrives a giant box with all of my father’s desk diaries. My brother sent it to me knowing I was the archivist of the family. Those two things together and my desire to write a novel make a foray into that work together. I began the research. When I met the people, it became a fire in my soul. It became a passion for me to write it.

Let’s talk about what that fire in your soul was ignited by. This is a disaster that hit a very small town. People lost their lives because the company in that area was basically issued the environmental protections that were in place, and they continued to mine and create slurries that eventually would flood and break free. How many people were affected by this? The whole town. What does that look like? Is that reflected within the fiction of your novel or is that somewhat expounded? I’m curious.

The disaster happened and it started before Pittston acquired Buffalo Creek Mining. They have three dams. They were grossly out of all compliance and out of all common sense that they were built. It’s like putting gravy in mashed potatoes, and they called it a dam. That was a bit of a euphemism. They were crushed gravel. There are two results of the production of coal. One is slag and crushed rock that you separate from coal, and one is the water you use.

They made these egregious pond impoundments. They were at the top of Coal Hollow. In my book, I do try to explain the topography of the conical mountains and the steep hollows, which they called Hollows. This particular one was a 10-mile stretch of little communities. It’s like beads on a necklace strung on a ten-mile stretch, and the wave that was formed. I shouldn’t give it all away because people might want to read the book.

Based on something that actually happened, you’re fictionalizing the story. You create these fictional towns a the fictional company, Roan Coal, but it’s based on a true story. Also, some romance and other things are brought in to keep the story moving, which is also what made it such a joy to read. You’re essentially tackling one of the most challenging things that we confront at this time, which is there is a man-made cause of some of these disasters that we confront. We build extractive business practices to make a buck. There are corporate interests that often push regulation or push people to turn the other way, and allow for nefarious practices to exist even when regulations are in place to control for that and to protect people.

When we’re living in a time like now when we’re politically divided and when one side is saying we need less regulation and the other side is saying we need more, who’s stuck in the middle is often the rural communities that are left in peril when something like this happens. I know that changes had been made after and since. We haven’t seen this magnitude of a coal disaster in the United States since, at least from what I saw. What can we learn from these past experiences now? Is part of the intention of the book to say, “Let’s not sweep this under the carpet?”

Therefore, my title. There are so many reasons that we remember. You’ve put all of that so well. It’s basically irresponsibility, negligence, stupidity, and careless design without check for numerous years with regard to this particular disaster. Unlike many coal disasters, Farmington and many other ones, it wasn’t strong miners who signed on to work as a miner and take that risk. It was largely women and children that were the victims.

It occurred on a Saturday morning. People were home cooking bacon. They hadn’t even let the dog out of the house, literally. They were pouring Cheerios and watching TV, and this happened. We’re talking about one industry region. These regions started 150 years ago and produced the coal that built our country. That’s important to remember. We won both World Wars. We’ve built the steel industry, and up until about twenty years ago, we had a much higher percentage. It’s cut in half in the last ten years, the use of coal for our electricity. This is a region where as we transition, we don’t want to forget about the contribution to our country.

For the people, it’s a part of their heritage and their work and their working there. The conflict of knowing, “Are we being put in harm’s way?” Also, the conundrum. If they tell or if they talk about that, would they lose their job? Would there be retribution? There are a lot of issues like that. Has it been eliminated? There are still impoundments. I’m not an expert on what impoundments are out there.

You said, “Can we change this?” I think we have, but this novel was loosely based on the Buffalo Creek disaster, which happened six years after the Aberfan Disaster in Wales, which was depicted if you saw The Crown, the third season and third episode, where it’s not a slurry pond which has the liquid. It was the coal slag, the gob pile, and the crushed rock that slid and smothered the school.

We do need to disseminate the information. The reason why I detached my novel from one specific event is to have more global relevance as we continue to have industries that can put people at risk. That’s why I detached it from one specific event because these kinds of things are still happening and do happen.

I touched on this in our recent episode when I interviewed Maya Van Rossum, who I’d invited back for the second time on the show. We talked about the new debt ceiling deal, which had just been passed through. As a surprise to environmentalists, there were a couple of things that were shoved into that bill that essentially said that we were going to greenlight some more drilling and fracking. Were in a contentious back and forth, and not looking at what they’d be likely to go forward otherwise.

Even from a regulation standpoint, it feels like sometimes we don’t remember. I realize now we’re talking about something that’s different than coal, but fracking also damages the environment. It’s also something that can damage the water supply, which is also something we should consider to be a human right, clean drinking water and the ability to have a safe environment and live a healthful life. Politically charged situations mean that we sometimes have these unpopular ideas get shoved into bills that are otherwise popular. It seems like we’re in a situation where we often forget. I understand you have a website dedicated to That You Remember,

Now I wanted to talk for a moment about the characters that you dive into in this story because it helps us see all sides of the issue. That’s something I admired about this work given that it is tackling a sensitive topic like a disaster that ended people losing their lives, community, livelihood, and everything. You have central in this story a woman who, like yourself, has been gifted the journals and the ledgers of her father on his passing. It happens to find a simple note that spiked her curiosity and sent her into the holler where this story takes place.

Your story then goes back and forth between 2019 and 1970. You’ve architected the story in such a way that we’re seeing glimpses of characters from the earlier story in the newer one. This is also what makes it a page-turner. I’m sitting there going, “What happens next? Are we going to encounter this earlier character or did they expire in the disaster that struck?”

You know that it’s happened because it’s a flashback series of stories that are being told. As I shared before we started this episode, I’m on chapter 41, which is pages before the finish. I’m on the cliffhanger or perhaps, the denouement. Everything is coming to a close rapidly. What can you tell me about the characters you’ve developed? Did they come from your life? How did you research them and develop them so that they had this whole perspective and made you think about each person’s side of the story, so to speak?

I could speak from the position of Alina, the 2019 woman who goes to find out that her father may have had an affair. I did grow up in the home of a coal executive. I did in fact not know a tipple from a pickle. That was realistic.

Neither did I, when I started reading it.

Turn at the tip and I thought that would be easy. That was true. The only thing my father ever said was to turn off the lights. He wanted us to turn off the lights and I figured this out as I was writing the books because sometimes if we were traveling, he’d say don’t turn off the lights. If we were traveling and they bought his coal, he wanted the lights on, but at home where they weren’t his coal, he did want. That part is from my own experience.

In the early part of figuring out if I was going to write this book or where I would go with it, I did lots of research, tons of books, lots of travel to the Appalachian region, and the internet. I saw the videotape, Buffalo Creek Revisited, and a woman is interviewed on that. She reads a poem. That woman is about my age. She became my protagonist. She became my Sarah. She lived and breathed inside of me is all I can say. Her poem, I have it right here. It’s all about forgetting and remembering, and it’s so moving. The other thing was in her interview towards the end of that movie or what have you, she said, “Sanity is remembering.” I felt like I took that baton and I wanted to run with it. In some ways, I wrote it for her.

The other characters, some came from books. There are beautiful photography books of that region, lots of interviews on the ground, and going into homes. I went to their churches with them and met different people. I went to the memorial events for the disaster in Buffalo Creek. That’s where I fleshed out other characters and what their lives were like. Lots of questions.

You also hone in on this whole idea of a small town that’s got a single industry, where anybody from outside the town is seen as an outsider, and how the culture of the region stands up around how welcoming and warm one of these small towns can feel on one stripe. If you’ve moved there as an outsider, how you can also always be made to remember that in some way that you’re not from around these parts. I wondered if that was connected to a personal experience you’d had if you had grown up in a smaller town and if it’s something that you still see there in doing your research.

I saw that there. I didn’t grow up in a small town. It seemed to me from my experience talking to people that the geography of that region is so specific that people were reluctant to say what it was like in a different county of the same state. That was certainly the case. What was your other question?

Is this a problem of the past? Does it still feel like certain parts of this territory are stuck in an earlier time in a way where outsiders are always treated as others as opposed to feeling like it’s an embraced community?

What you’re seeing in the majority of the novel, which is in 1970, is a period of time when the Unions were still very strong. There were a lot of strikes. People would strike a lot. Sometimes for non-coal related issues. I’ve heard school books or non-coal related issues, and they would call wildcat strikes. The feeling of them and us was very strong then. When a coal operator came to town, numerous people told me that the restaurants would clear out if the coal operator walked in. I don’t think that is as relevant today as it was then. That was a period of time, but it is still now. People who have lived in those regions all their life are sometimes reluctant to say what it’s like 50 miles away in a different county.

What’s interesting to me about that is I’ve traveled for a time in France and all over Europe. I found that outside of the big cities, once you got into a rural area, even if you’re only an hour from Paris, People didn’t want to get in their car and drive to Paris or an hour outside of London. They lived there and they didn’t make it to London. Whereas here, if you’re an hour from San Francisco, it’s like, “I’ll go to the city for an evening” or something to that effect.

Part of that is as a country, we are pretty spread out. The culture from a suburb of San Francisco or even San Jose to San Francisco isn’t that varied and different. When you’re in some of these areas where there’s less mobility between counties, they feel like different worlds. The culture can vary. The way people approach even their relationships can vary. You’re living in a little bit more of a smaller community that’s more connected and where those outside, don’t necessarily get a view.

Where I’m heading with this whole conversation is we’ve lived in a world for the past several years where people have commented on this idea of a good portion of America feeling like it had been left behind. Many parts, especially those that are connected to industries, might be fading out like coal. We’re relying less on coal now and more on solar. We’re relying less on extracting minerals from the ground and more on technology.

There are entire counties and regions. West Virginia is somewhat rural as a whole with the Appalachian Mountains, etc. We’re facing this unique challenge now where it’s hard to get a view of what it would be like to be in that community either in the ’70s or today. I even had this question as I was reading the book, wanting to go there and explore and see what it’s like now. I felt like I got a good glimpse of what it might have been like when I was growing up as a kid, and have no idea what it would be like to live there now with the expiration of some of these coal mining operations.

It was another world for me. I went on roads where there were sheer rock walls, sheer drop-offs, giant coal trucks, and miles and miles with no mailbox. In the region where I did most of my research and where I met most of the people for the novel, my one contact said, “We’re hoping for a family dollar.”

What’s a family dollar?

It’s a store that sells everything like a dollar store. In some regions, it’s very restrictive with regard to shopping opportunities, and having to go a long way for that, so you’re right. I live in North Carolina in the Triangle Area. It’s almost impossible for me to imagine that it would be so restricted where I could go to get milk or anything like that. I saw many families with multiple generations living close together in the same house. It’s in my book where the young miner comes in. He gives his grandma this big hug. You see a lot of that.

[bctt tweet=”Many regions are very restrictive in regard to shopping opportunities. They still have to go a long way for that.” via=”no”]

It’s strong family connections and is multi-generational. This is something I dug into a bit when I was in graduate school doing a project for a business school. It was related to this question about what would happen if the post office no longer existed. We were going into this moment where it was looking very much like the USPS could be dismantled or privatized.

What most Americans didn’t understand is that there are entire swaths of this country that are serviced by USPS. UPS and FedEx won’t touch them because it’s simply not profitable to get there. We live in a world where we’ve increasingly gone shopping online where it’s been harder to have a brick and mortar, be it a dollar store or anything else.

Unless you’re talking about massive chains and fairly developed areas, there would be entire swats of the country where people literally wouldn’t have the ability to go to a bank branch office, to go get packages at their home, and to ultimately be able to live a more modern life even if they chose to live rurally. They’d have to drive an hour to the post office type of thing, and now you’re going to take that away.

The post office might be right next to the bank. Now without the post office to anchor the bank, the bank might go away because there are not enough people coming over there. We think that when we live in these bubbles like I’m close to Silicon Valley, everybody has high-speed internet access, and that’s not the case.

I go to a friend’s cabin and it’s like a little vacation. It’s novel that there’s no internet. You realize that it’s challenging to get internet in any of these places. You might be working with a dish to get some TV or whatever, but you don’t have the ability to stream high-speed internet and watch your Netflix. You become disconnected from where the current culture is.

When you say something like, “They’re hoping for a dollar store,” that’s what that brings me to because we have a beautiful country here. We have areas that are not as populated, that have become national parks, and they’re great. We get into them and we’re able to explore these outdoor spaces. We have spots where people have chosen to live because they want to live in a more rural way. Maybe they’re connected to farming or they came for industry, then the industry left. They don’t necessarily always have an economic way out even if they wanted to find one.

They don’t have the same internet access and now, we threaten to take away something like USPS or the social systems that support the area. The impact that could have is dire. I wanted to bring it up because it felt like it brought me to that too. I happened to grow up in a semi-rural area, so I think about these things and it takes me back to those moments of spending summers up in the mountains outside of Southern Oregon. Now, everybody has cell phones but at the time I was there, landlines would go down because there was a wind storm and you didn’t even have a phone.

As you say, these people are not on vacation. They live there. It’s not a choice. I have my character, Elena, if you recall. When she wanted to find a place, she stopped and asked the local sheriff. This happened to me. He says, “Do you know where the high school used to be?” No. “Do you know where the hospital used to be?” No. There weren’t signs on the road. I had to follow him but there were so many ”Do you know where this used to be?” So much has gone with the drop in coal, the increase in machinery, and using less coal. It’s almost a ghost town. So much has left that area.

On the other hand, my novel shows that I was pretty surprised at the warmth, graciousness, and openness that people showed me. I almost feel like there are numerous people who if I had to spend the night with a flat tire or this or that, would open their arms to me. They were so gracious. The first time I went there, I was prepared for the non-cell phone. I’m not so great with direction, so I bought one of these Find Me Spots. It was a long time ago. It’s a satellite thing to put on my dashboard so I could send an, “I’m okay” or SOS. They laugh and say, “Your cell phone won’t work here,” because of the topography and because they don’t have cell towers.

[bctt tweet=”Small towns have a unique feeling of warmth, graciousness, and openness.” via=”no”]

There’s part of me that says that’s also beautiful. I had the pleasure of interviewing a gentleman who had hiked all over the Appalachian trail too on this show. It’s an area I’ve always wanted to visit just to see nature and these beautiful ravines, and to get a glimpse of what it was like before we started our progress from the East Coast to the West. You do get into these ravenous areas where there aren’t a lot of people.

The country that you mentioned, the cliff faces, and everything else, that’s where you wonder, “I want some safety dot or whatever that was. If I drive off the road in the middle of the night, there are no streetlights out there. What if my headlamps aren’t bright enough and I don’t see something or a deer comes out, and I happen to swerve a little bit and end up in a very precarious situation?” You were thinking that through.

It happened to me. I didn’t know what a tipple was, so this woman wanted to lead me to the place where I was going to stay. We finally found each other because there was another cliff drop-off. I didn’t want to go. I followed this Dodge Caravan on the steepest cliff rugged because I’ve hiked a lot of the Appalachian Trail.

I’ve done tons of backpacking. It was better than most backpacking trails, and here I was in the car following her and she was speeding around the corner. I was like, “I’m not going to get lost.” When we finally got to her place, I said, “It was hard to follow you.” She said, “You said you needed the restroom.” There wasn’t a restroom at the Miner’s Mart, so she stepped on it.

I feel like you echoed that story in the book once or twice. People that are very familiar with those roads will drive them. I probably drive Highway 17 here in Santa Cruz County. I remember when I was sixteen and learning to drive white-knuckling it the whole day. Now I cruise along like it’s no big deal.

Except there were boulders and there was water.

What is a tipple? Why don’t we explain that to the audience because we’ve mentioned it a few times now?

The tipple is when they pull the coal out of the coal face or out of the mine. It goes in these hoppers and down a conveyor belt to the production plant, which is the tipple. There, they separate the coal from all of the slate and slag, and other rock and debris that is pulled out by the giant machinery. They have to use high-pressure water to separate the coal from everything else. The coal then goes into the dump trucks or trains or whatever and gets transported. That’s what the production plant or the tipple does.

CMBB Isabel Reddy | Coal Mining
Coal Mining: To separate the coal from the slate, slag, and other rock debris pulled out by the tipple, high pressured water is used.

I’d never even heard it referred to as a tipple before. I just think it’s a coal plant like the way you do oil refineries here. I happened to know what an oil refinery looks like but I drove by it for a decade before I ever asked the question, “What are all those giant cylinders up on that hill in Richmond?” It’s an oil refinery. It’s multi-stages, and it’s partly gravity fed.

I thought I would recognize it but there are countless things coming out of the mountains that all of them could be tipples as far as I was concerned. They’re all these metal trams and machinery.

I’m very much looking forward to the last few chapters of this book, and finding out what happens in these characters’ lives even though it’s based on a true story, so I have an idea of what’s coming. I’m essentially at that climax and the denouement that follows now. I have to know if you have other plans in place for other novels you’re planning to write or another path that you’re planning to pursue now that you’re nearing the close of your MFA.

I am working on a new novel. It’s very different than that one. It’s more on the lines of auto-fiction. I may be weaving two time periods, but it’s a very different novel. It’s not historical fiction. It’s more of a personal story.

I appreciated the work. I enjoy thinking about the people who make a community because that is so clearly and strongly stated in this particular work. The transportation through time in a way to my youth and thinking small town where I grew up, then spending a moment to reflect on what it would be like to be there now.

Thinking about how we as a culture embrace communities from one to the next that might be very different that might have different challenges, and give rise to their voices and seek to understand perspective. Ultimately, ensure that no one is left behind and that we can all remember together. It’s a beautiful book. Thank you for writing it and for coming on my show. I enjoy this book. I can’t recommend it more than I am. If you love fiction and you like to read and you enjoy realistic depictions and maybe a little romance, it’s a great book.

Thank you so much, Corinna, and thank you for saying community a lot. I learned so much about community. I grew up outside of New York where if you stall at the green light, somebody is going to ram your bumper.

I came from New Jersey. I was there for a trip to my nephew’s wedding. I forget how out here in the West, we don’t use horns that often even when you maybe should have. We don’t use them that much. In New Jersey, it’s like you’re at a red light for two seconds, someone has gone honk, honk. I called it the New Jersey salute.

I’ve driven a lot in Boston. I’m so glad you said that. I learned so much. I saw so much community and I’m trying to establish it in my life here so that I’m not so anonymous. It’s a wonderful region. I hope you can go sometimes.

I have been mostly to the coast it seems, but I realize I don’t think I’ve ever been to West Virginia. I’ve only driven maybe through a tip of it possibly along an interstate.

It’s beautiful like the song, “Almost heaven.”

That’s right. There are places I’ve yet to go. Even the Grand Canyon, I’ve never been.

Neither have I. I’ve seen it from 30,000 feet, “Can I look out your window?”

That’s about right. We have so many amazing communities here in the United States from Coast to Coast. It pays us to spend time with them and get to know them better. To be able to do that from time to time by using the power of fiction is also an incredible journey and could open your mind. That’s the point that we should all be thinking about. Maybe we’re phasing out coal and other types of energy that are cleaner and greener for our environment, but that doesn’t mean we phase out the people and the stories around them.

Take the walk in their shoes, which is what I was hoping my book would do.

Think about what it’s like. At this point in the interview, I always like to ask my guests if there happened to be a question that I haven’t asked that perhaps they wish I had or if they wanted to leave my audience with something specific, a question or a thought that they wanted them to think about.

It was this poem by this young woman that inspired my whole book. Now I can share this with others. I don’t know if you know, but you probably don’t. I found a way through the people in that region to get in touch with her. It turns out, we have the same birthday. The power of words that a poem could move me so much that I wrote this book.

This poem, I found on the internet in the early part of my research to write this book. It took over and stayed with me throughout the years of writing this book. It’s a poem by a survivor of the Buffalo Creek Disaster, February 26th, 1972, by a woman named Gail Amberge and I will read it.

“It’s Friday late on the summer side of this West Virginia town, wishing it was another West Virginia town maybe on some other West Virginia River Bank as beautiful as autumn in your mind. Here in the $75 room, I remember things and more things. I’ve forgotten nothing.

Lest we forget.

The sanity is in remembering so that we cannot repeat the past.

That gets to this entire idea. That is something I sometimes battle and confront when we’re talking about building a capitalistic society. It feels like many people think that one person is worth more than another. I don’t think any job is worth more than another or any person is worth more than another. Yet we continue to build a society in which there are people that risk their lives for the work they do, and where communities risk their lives for how they live.

That could be impending doom from wildfire or flood or disaster like this man-caused issue, this coal-related flood, this slurry, and everything else that ended up burying and drowning people. It’s through the power of the arts and things like that poem that you shake people up and you remind them that we’re all in this together. What more can you say?

It happened 50 years ago. This event in my novel is loosely based, but there was just the train derailment with the toxic fluid coming out, and people are being evacuated to Ohio or Flint, Michigan. It’s on and on. There is a cost to these things, not only to the environment but to people. Remembering not only those things but remembering the people that fiction can have made it real that as we move forward, not to forget the region that needs to be retooled and more ideas and more education. It’s a region that’s contributed to America. Writing this book, Corinna, every time I turn on, it has changed me so deeply. It makes me appreciate that I can turn on the washer, that it will have electricity and the ramifications of that.

The sacrifices that people made.

The whole kiss the miner goodbye and the woman who told me that teared up at both of these memorial events. I went to the 40th and the 50th because it took me ten years to write the book. It’s a long time, but at the 40th, a gentleman was there. He was about my age, so I thought, “I go talk to him.” It turns out that it was the first and only event he ever went to. He lives there. He lost family members in it and it took 40 years for him to go to one event. I was told that on the 50th, he never came back. I spoke to him, sat down, and I said, “What beer did you drink? What cars? How did you fix your cars? Do you jack them up or do you use cement?” I didn’t ask him a word about the event. He turned to me and said, “It was raining that night,” and he opened up and told me about his experience.

Thank you again so much for joining me, Isabel. It’s been such a treat to read your book, to have this time with you, and to remind us all where our hearts and souls should spend a moment. Thank you.

You’re welcome. Thank you so much. It has been good. I appreciate it

I want to thank Isabel Reddy for joining me. It’s such a treat to discover a new great author and the life of somebody like me. I’m a big fan of literature. I’ve read so much throughout the years, and so discovering That You Remember has been one of my biggest treats of the year so far. Now you’ll see me holding up the image here. You see, it’s simply a coal pile and the words blazing That You Remember.

This book is an invitation on a journey to what it might have been like to be there at that particular time when we had this incredible disaster change the lives and trajectory of people just in a moment. There was a buildup of a long time of people issuing regulations and making all the wrong decisions for the community but it also was a story of the power of community.

I want to leave everyone with this thought. You can get your inspiration from any number of places. Sometimes it is listening to a song or a poem or reading a great book, discovering something new, or thinking about what it might be like to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. There are so many poignant stories told within its pages that I’m going to recommend it. Resoundingly, everyone goes and picks up a copy of this book now. You can do so by going to The book is by Isabel Reddy and is available now.

You can visit While you’re there, I hope that you’ll leave me a note about what you thought of this episode. You can even leave me a voice message by tapping on the microphone icon in the bottom right-hand corner. I’d love to hear your voice. I am so grateful that you’ve joined us and that you’re a part of your own community wherever you sit.

Thank you now and always for being a part of this show and this community because together, we can do so much more. We can care more, we can be better, we can learn from one another, and we can embrace change in a positive way as we head forward even in a world with less coal and more green energy. Thank you.

Important Links

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Rate Show
Join our Newsletter

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Rate Show