The Sewanee-produced documentary “Mine 21” was named a winner of the 2019 Austen Riggs Erikson Prize.

The Sewanee-produced documentary “Mine 21” was named a winner of the 2019 Austen Riggs Erikson Prize for Excellence in Mental Health Media. The short film, directed by Sewanee alumnus Stephen Garrett, C’01, and produced by Sewanee Classics Professor Chris McDonough, tells the story of a deadly 1981 coal-mine explosion in Whitwell, Tennessee, by following two Sewanee students—Kelsey Arbuckle, C’19, and Alexa Fults, C’21—as they learn more about the disaster. All four plan to attend the award ceremony in November.

The documentary film recognizes, shares, and preserves some of the stories of Mine 21—a local event with national resonance and policy implications. Watch the trailer and learn more about the film.

Arbuckle and Fults, both politics majors from Grundy County, worked to uncover information about a coal mine disaster that was personal for both of them, even though it occurred long before they were born. During her sophomore year at Sewanee, Arbuckle read a newspaper story about the mine explosion and realized that her grandfather had been one of the victims.

"We are thrilled to have won this award for 'Mine 21' from the Austen Riggs Center, and to be sharing a platform with Kiese Laymon. Most importantly, though, we feel privileged to share what we have learned about the explosion in 1981 and its aftermath, all of which had such a profound impact on our neighboring communities," said McDonough. "It is a local story, of course, but the recognition by the Austen Riggs Center shows how significant it is for people across the nation whose own communities may have suffered from traumatic events. We are grateful for the opportunity to share this story of courage and hope in Marion and Grundy Counties."

Austen Riggs Center Medical Director Eric Plakun says, “‘Mine 21’ artfully illustrates how a catastrophe can impact an entire community.” The other 2019 Austen Riggs Erikson Prize winner is Heavy, a memoir by Kiese Laymon, who spoke on campus in 2017 and returned to Sewanee as writer-in-residence in 2018.