This is a blog article from a good friend of mine. It talks about her experience when she was the Public Information Officer on site during the Sago Mine Disaster. This post was published on the 1 year Anniversary of the Sago incident:
The first time I saw the 29 crosses lined across a stage I froze. Not one represented anyone I knew personally, but each represented the families I had spent five, long agonizing days with a couple of weeks prior. When I saw the same scene repeat itself again on the one year anniversary I was immediately taken back to the events that took place that horrible week.
At the time of the April 5, 2010, mine blast I was the public information officer for West Virginia’s Mine Safety Office. I can’t tell you what time I received the first call, but I can tell you that it set the stage for what was to come – life changing news that no one was prepared for.
The drive to the mine site was long. Longer because the loss of cell service isolated me from what was going on. Even the director of mine safety couldn’t get updates as we made our way to the scene. I don’t know how one can prepare for something like this. I had been with the mine safety office for about two years at the time of this accident, and had to deal with many mine accidents that involved the loss of life. But this was the first time I had actually been onsite at the place of an accident. I knew what my role was, but those responsibilities where momentarily overshadowed by the events unfolding around me, as they would a few times during that week.
The first night the governor met with the families. I couldn’t help but study their faces. I wanted to know their stories. I wanted to know more about their loved ones buried deep inside that West Virginia mountain. I wanted to comfort them and make it all better.
Throughout the week I got the privilege of meeting some of those family members. I listened to them talk about their husbands, fathers, uncles, and brothers. I even watched how some braved the media to tell their stories. I grew in awe of their resilience and held out just as much hope as they did that we would bring survivors to the surface.
When the governor broke the news that the miracle we had been praying for didn’t happen, I painfully watched as grown men sobbed like babies and adult women screamed for their daddies. I had heard the news prior to the governor’s announcement, but it wasn’t until that moment, to witness these reactions, that the realness of this event hit me. And for the first time that week, I cried.
The first memorial service reopened the fresh wounds and memories of this nightmare. I wore my emotions on my sleeve, unable to hide the pain I felt for the families who suffered great loss. For me, the most emotional part of the ceremony was watching the team of miners I recruited turn on the lights of each hat one by one. These brave men took great pride in this task, but I know their hearts were heavy with sorrow. I can not imagine the pain that the miners’ families went through reliving those painful memories. Because as I sat recounting memories and precious stories of miners long lost, my heart was broken all over again.
Even though one year’s time has passed, many are still grieving. The losses can never be replaced. But as West Virginia pride is rooted in each of us, we continue to move forward. West Virginia pride and passion for a job well done and an honest day’s work is the comfort most in the coalfields seek. West Virginians will never forget, but will move forward into the future because we’re too proud and maybe just too dedicated to do otherwise.
written by Jama Jarrett,