Richard White, a laid-off miner, drives to a cemetery on a ridge above his home in Twilight, West Virginia. He looks down on the coal-washing plant where he worked for 33 years. He points to the graves of his father and father-in-law, also miners.
All around, hillsides have been sheared. A mountain has been cleared of trees and dynamited. The setting sun illuminates what looks like a golden cloud of smoke.
“Now, you see all the dust in the air up here?” he asks.
White has a reason to be worried about coal dust. He has black lung disease, as did his father and father-in-law.
“My father-in-law, and my father, the doctors brought them out of the mines because of their medical condition,” White said. “They would actually cough up pieces of their lungs, with big handfuls of dust, because their lungs were deteriorating. It wasn’t pretty.”