Over the weekend I began watching the Hulu show Dopesick – a disturbing and captivating story about Purdue Pharma, their drug OxyContin, the ruthless greed and lethal deception behind it and the impact on a small coal mining Appalachian community. It was an odd experience to begin watching a show that looked like it could have been filmed in Princeton, West Virginia. And in some ways it began to weave together two important pieces of the history of Princeton for me: coal mining and the OxyContin drug epidemic.
In October, I will have lived in Princeton for two years. I am still an outsider settling into my new community. I get to witness and observe where things are at currently, all the social services facilities, the signs of poverty in the grocery store, the appeals for foster care and the skeletal figures walking around town. And all of this exists alongside the endless creative events and arts from the RiffRaff Arts Collective, the newish and thriving Appalachian Coffee House, the Blue Ridge Bee Company grocer, new restaurants, a trickle, then a steady stream of people coming through the downtown.
Coal runs as a banner of pride sprinkled throughout the community. My neighbor is a coal miner but I know there are very few people like him still working in the coal mines. I know little more of the history. Few people talk with me about coal mining. Fewer still talk to me about the OxyContin epidemic. To have those two critically impactful epochs of Princeton’s history tied together in a story helped me see how much I have missed in not knowing more of the history of Princeton.
So I am making a commitment to learning more about our history over the coming months and sharing what I learn here and on the website. If anyone has good resources to recommend for the history of Southwest West Virginia please send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. I encourage you to watch Dopesick if you haven’t already. It is incredible and such an important piece of our Nation’s history.
Thank you for all your support helping us to grow this important work in our little community.
Go, fight, win.