Homer Hickam on W.Va. and the outbreak: "We are not afraid"

Homer Hickam on W.Va. and the outbreak:
Homer Hickam posed with actor Jake Gyllenhaal during the filming of the 1999 film "October Sky."

Author and engineer Homer Hickam says he trusts that the native bravery he knew growing up in West Virginia will help others weather the troubles that result from the 2019-2020 coronavirus outbreak.


Hickam, who famously preserved a glimpse of life in the state's southern coalfields in his book "October Sky," is reading selections from his works to help entertain people isolated by the outbreak.

The author says he's looking back to his childhood in Coalwood, in rugged McDowell County, for inspiration.


" ''—I wrote a book with that title that explained why folks in my hometown were not afraid," Hickam said.

"Condensed, their attitudes toward life made them fearless, and they were: We are proud of who we are; We stand up for what we believe; We keep our families together; We trust in God but rely on ourselves. We are not afraid."

Hickam grew up in a rugged coal mining region in the 1950s in the southernmost county in West Virginia. There, he and friends Billy Rose, Sherman Siers, Quentin Wilson, Roy Lee Cooke, and O'Dell Carroll became amateur rocket builders, calling themselves the Big Creek Missile Agency.

In 1960, the group qualified for the National Science Fair and won a gold and silver medal in propulsion, launching Hickam's career in propulsion.


Following service in the Vietnam War, Hickam became a NASA engineer and began to explore his love for writing, which, in 1998, resulted in his book Rocket Boys.

In 1999, Universal Studios released its critically acclaimed film "," based on Rocket Boys.

Hickam is presently reading from his book "," which is the fifth book in his Coalwood series, which also includes the works "," "," "," and "."

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