Friday, August 31, 2007

Crandall Canyon Miners

On August 6th, a shift registering 3.9 in the earth trapped six miners 1800 deep inside a mountain north of my little town at the Crandall Canyon Mine.

Since then, three more miners have died scrambling to dig out their fellow workers when the earth moved again, while working in teams going in 24 hour shifts, 7 days a week in the 27 days since the disaster.

They drill down holes, seven in all now, to where the tunnels are, trying to find signs of life. The minor earthquake, thought to have caused the tunnel roof to stay firm, but, blew out the sides. Coal flew out like missiles It was hoped the miners sought refuge in an eating area, although the hole drilled there showed nothing but rubble when the microphone and then the robotic camera was lowered in. I have to wonder why, in this day and age, miners are still working in fairly un-electronic conditions. Why not have some form of location chip, or small GPS?

They stopped doing horizontal drilling since the collapse of the tunnel that killed the other three miners.

I don't know how much coverage this is getting outside of Utah. It covers our front pages, and is the opening story every night on our news.

Today, they announced this bore hole is the last one. If there is no sound, no signs, they are stopping the rescue effort. No one says it, but, it actually became a search for bodies a bit ago. The miners families gather every day, and wait. You do that in mining towns, when you hear there is a collapse, an explosion.... you gather, and you wait.

Sometimes, you get lucky, and they find everyone, and church bells ring and they come out alive...all of them, some of them, but, life leaves the mine. Sometimes, they die down there in the complete blackness. I simply can't fathom that life or death.

I cannot fathom a miners life. Neither as a miner nor as being a miner's wife or child. To enter that cold, wet, absence of light deep under the weight of a mountain is so foreign to me, my mind moves away from the thought. There is a tunnel in Colorado that takes you under the Continental Divide, the Eisenhower Tunnel. I knew people who worked digging through the mountain, when it was called the Straight Creek Tunnel project. Even in the summer, they came out cold..not just cold, but, cold to the bone. A friend said there was a mind set you had to have, to not think about what was above you.

When I drive through that tunnel, on my way to or from Denver, I close my thoughts to the 14,000 ft of solid rock above me, and I go a wee bit faster than the 45mph limit. When I read The Stand, I remember that being one of the most horrifying parts for me, the travel made walking through that section of I-70, over cars, dead black, mountain above you... I'm not sure I'd have come out sane.

These communities are close knit, hard working, and go down into those shafts every day. And, you can be sure, while doing their work, raising their kids, a little part of the families above ground listens for the mine whistle.

Kerry Allred, Don Erickson, Luis Hernandez, Carlos Payan, Brandon Phillips and Manuel Sanchez.

If you pray, remember them and their families. All miners... who would tell of a life in words we've never seen.


Harriet V said...

It was front page news here until the big boss said they were not going to risk any more rescuers; now we don't hear about it. But their number is small enough that they have names and faces. I weep with their families

Bud said...

I just read the Google news but yes it was there every day. I can't get my head around that kind of life at all. Accidents of geography, where you happen to be born or to whom you are born, make a world of difference. I've been incredibly lucky my whole life and I never forget that.

golfwidow said...

In a perfect world, changes would be made because this news would get more attention than such things as the dark, frightening, vast cavern revealed to the paparazzi last time Britney Spears bent over whilst not wearing britches.

Amber said...

Quin, I've been following the story pretty closely, although it seems to be making headline news less and less nationwide (or at least the two states I've watched it in). My heart hurts for those miner's families and everything they must be going through. I'll definitely be keeping them in my prayers.

Thank you for writing such a compassionate, insightful, post. I've wondered, not for the first time, how close this was to where you're at and if it was affecting you... hitting so close to home like that.

Anyway... I hope the very least they can do is recover those miner's bodies to return to their families and allow them to have a proper burial. And then cut them some fat checks. Money doesn't solve your problems or take away from your grief. But it sure as hell does take away a lot of the stress so that you can focus on other things that will help your heart heal and your mind breathe a bit easier. I think they deserve it after going through nearly a month of Living Hell.

Quin said...

i doubt they will recover the bodies...they've stopped the bore drilling (last i heard) and horizontal tunnels aren't being done.

usually, they seal up the tunnel, and that is that.

an investigation will be done, however, since it was shown that it was a small earthquake that caused the collapse, i doubt big checks will be cut anywhere.

Peter Varvel said...

It has been on the televised news every day, here in Los Angeles. I hear it on the men's locker room TV when I go to the gym.
It's incredulous that they got to and beyond the fourth week of this tragedy.
It's just as devastating to hear about losing family members this way as it is to hear about those lost in the World Trade Center buildings.
My heart and my prayers indeed go out to these miners' families.

maggie g. said...

Nice blog!

Corey's mum said...

I'm a few days behind your blog.

I haven't heard anything about the miners since last week, when the other gentlemen were killed in their efforts to save their peers.

From what I heard, my heart broke for the guy who spoke on behalf of the mine... he sounded so TORN. I can't imagine being stuck with the decision of whether to risk more men's lives or to refuse families' closure.

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