November 20, 1968

Down into the mine, to work 600 feet below fresh air, 99 men descended for the midnight to 8 AM shift.

Suddenly – at 5:40 AM – an explosion shakes Number 9 mine and shatters the miner’s lamp house, where precise work records are stored. Three more explosions follow, stopping rescue operations and sending thick black smoke hundreds of feet into the air.

Twenty-one workers emerge. Some are able to walk out and others are rescued by emergency measures via a shaft remote from the explosion.

Crews begin efforts to reach the trapped men but another explosion, collapses, and dangerous gas levels deter them. Did their comrades reach one of the lockers with emergency equipment? How many? How long?

No miracle in the mountains this time.

The event enters the records as the worst mining diaster in West Virginia since early 1940. Ten days after the initial explosion, with fires still burning and hope of rescue expired, the mine is sealed.

Seventy-eight men lost.  Buried.  Entombed.

May we honor and appreciate the men and women who face danger in their work.

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