At approximately 3 p.m. two years ago today the lives of 29 coal miners were snuffed out in a massive explosion that roared underground along the Raleigh-Boone county line.
Until that day, other than the miners, their families, and some others in the coal industry, most of us had never even heard of the Upper Big Branch mine at Montcoal.
That all changed when something ignited an abundance of methane gas, that in turn mixed with coal dust and created the lethal blast. As we would come to learn just a few days later, the end result would be the worst coal mining disaster in our country since the 1970s.
Time seemed to stand still for nearly a week in southern West Virginia as hundreds worked furiously to try to determine if any of those miners still unaccounted for could have survived. By Saturday the hope turned to heartache.
The past 24 months have certainly allowed the wounds to somewhat mend, but the hurt and the memories, the bitterness, will always remain in some fashion for all those left behind.
Family members, friends, other miners from UBB, the community in general — all are still coping in various ways, some faring better than others.
And while the healing is continuing, many still want answers and accountability.
That process, too, has started but is nowhere near completion.
So today we pay tribute to those 29 brave souls. We remember their sacrifice, and we urge those in charge to make sure every single person who was responsible for this horrific event, in any way, faces punishment.
It’s the least we must do and its the precursor to setting the tone so that something so tragic as this never happens again.