Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | July 31, 2002

Good news from Pennsylvania

“Energy and persistence conquer all things.” – Benjamin Franklin, statesman, inventor, author and famous Pennsylvanian.

Thank God for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

In a time when one wave of bad news is followed almost immediately by another – from acts of terror to raging wildfires, from child kidnappings to stock market crashes, from pedophile priests to corporate fraud – we have been blessed with two tales from The Keystone State that demonstrate the triumph of the human spirit.

First there was little Erica Pratt, a 7-year-old Philadelphia girl. She was kidnapped, bound and gagged with duct tape and left alone in an abandoned house. In a situation that would frighten many adults into inaction, Erica was not overcome.

Showing resolve usually seen only in steroid-steeped fictional action heroes, Erica kept a cool head and devised a plan. She chewed through the duct tape covering her mouth, broke a window and summoned help.

After the heartbreak of the Samantha Runnion tragedy, as well as several other ongoing child-kidnapping cases, Erica’s triumph was uplifting for the nation’s spirits.

Erica Pratt demonstrates well the truth in Benjamin Franklin’s platitude from Poor Richard’s Almanack: “God helps those that help themselves.”

Hard upon Erica’s ordeal came the nine Pennsylvania coal miners trapped 240 feet underground in a flooded cavern. For three days, families, friends and the nation rode an emotional rollercoaster as the effort to rescue the miners was alternately promising and frustrating.

Even while pundits doubted the rescue effort and began speculating that the trapped miners surely couldn’t survive the cavern’s cold, wet conditions, the rescuers heeded Ben Franklin’s words: “Diligence is the mother of good luck.” When a drill bit broke, they procured another and kept on working to reach the miners.

Their diligence – and that of the trapped miners – paid off. In the wee hours of Sunday morning, live television once again became the country’s virtual town square as the nation watched as the men – soaking wet, filthy and ravenous, but in remarkably good shape – were plucked one by one from the mine they thought might be their watery grave.

That once-bleak coal mine, not far from the site where Flight 93’s heroic passengers wrestled control of the plane from Sept. 11 hijackers, was transformed into the source of another much-needed happy ending for a nation weary from tragedies.

Pennsylvania – which might want to consider changing its motto to “Don’t count us out” – was once written off by many as the home of an out-of-date rust-belt economy, but has now brought us two stories of perservering and overcoming.

The miners and rescuers of Pennsylvania coal country, little Erica Pratt, and even the doomed passengers of Flight 93 have taught us much about persistence, courage and selflessness. And they demonstrate the truth of two more of Franklin’s quotes:

“To be thrown upon one’s own resources, is to be cast into the very lap of fortune; for our faculties then undergo a development and display an energy of which they were previously unsusceptible.”

We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

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