It all started out as a Facebook post. Within days, it turned into a state-wide sensation.The “Hands of Coal Across Bell County” event is set to take place at 2 p.m. on Aug. 11. The event will take place from the county line in Flat Lick to the Cumberland Gap Tunnel.
Joe Harris, owner of Harris Printing in Pineville, stated on Facebook that he would like to see citizens unite hand-in-hand from county line to county line in support of the coal industry. The community took notice.
“It’s a dream of mine,” said Harris. “I immediately got comments from the community.” Harris said five days after posting the statement, it received over 63,000 hits. After that, his daughter created an events page.
Harris predicts that at least 20,000 people will be needed to form the complete line.
“Since (the posting of the event), this has grown quicker than I ever imagined,” said Harris. Now even businesses are wanting to get involved with the event.
According to Harris, businesses have called to adopt certain sections of the highway to be responsible for during the event. Harris said he would like for more businesses to get involved and adopt a section of the highway.
Harris asks any business that would like to adopt a section of the highway email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Officials have taken notice as well.
“With the EPA’s assault on all things coal-related, it’s more important now than ever that we literally join hands to draw attention — hopefully on a national level — to the negative impact the EPA’s attack is having on families throughout the coal fields,” judge-executive Albey Brock said in a press release. “In my job as County Judge Executive, I see first-hand the hardship not only on displaced miners and their families but also to the numerous industries that support mining, from trucking to metal fabrication shops that rely almost solely on coal.”
“I look forward to joining hands with all the others in our area who know that the well-being of our communities depends on coal. This is our chance to be heard,” said Rep. Rick Nelson in a press release.
Harris’ inspiration for the event comes from his hopes of getting the area back to the way it was in the old days. He believes the event will help out the community.
Pineville used to be a busy town, according to Harris.
“You would have to turn sideways to walk down the street on Saturday,” said Harris.
He said there used to be two movie theaters, three or four motels and all kinds of restaurants.
Harris said now it is hard to explain to his 16-year-old son how things used to be.
“I don’t want my son to bring his children back to Pineville and attempt to tell them that there used to be a town here,” said Harris.
Harris said business will start shutting the door if coal leaves the area.
“Without coal it will be cold in the winter and hot in the summer. Coal is what keeps the lights on,” said Harris.
Harris explained there is no person in the area that does not have a coal miner in their family. In some cases coal mining is a second and third generation career, according to Harris.
Harris encourages anyone that wants to know more about the event or stay updated join the events page entitled “Hands of Coal Across Bell County.”
“We must take out stand because we are coal,” said Harris.
Anthony Cloud is a staff writer for the Middlesboro Daily News. He can be contacted via email at email@example.com.