Sign up to receive email updates
Rahall Offers Tribute to Fallen Upper Big Branch Miners at Memorial Dedication
Whitesville, WV - Speaking at the dedication of the Upper Big Branch Miners Memorial, Friday, U.S. Representative Nick J. Rahall, D-WV, renewed calls for improved safety and health conditions for America’s coal miners.
“Today, we dedicate this magnificent tribute, a great memorial to such good men. But I surely hope that we never have the need to erect one like it, ever again. That, to me, would be the ultimate monument to our miners,” said Rahall in remarks at the ceremony dedicating a granite wall featuring 29 silhouettes depicting the victims of the April 2010 disaster at Upper Big Branch.
Rahall also acknowledged the death early this morning of a miner at the Fort Creek #10 Mine in Boone County.
“Today, we have word of yet another tragic loss in a West Virginia coal mine,” said Rahall. “Our hearts are filled with sadness and sympathy for this family’s suffering and we are even more determined that action must be taken to ensure that our miners make it home at the end of every shift.”
Rahall has consistently supported Federal efforts to improve mine safety and health. In 2006, Rahall helped to shepherd through Congress the MINER Act, legislation aimed at helping miners survive, and be rescued from, disasters like to those at the Sago and Aracoma mines in West Virginia.
He has subsequently cosponsored additional legislation to build on the MINER Act, including pressing, this year, for the House Representatives to pass the Robert C. Byrd Mine Safety Protection Act, legislation crafted to address factors that contributed to the disaster at the Upper Big Branch Mine.
The new UBB Miners Memorial weighs 5.8 tons and has six segments. It stands on land donated by the Town of Whitesville, the same ground where a temporary memorial stood for 14 months.
“Great monuments are those that remind us of mankind’s hopes, aspirations, ideals, values, and responsibilities; this is such a monument. It reminds us of kindness, courage, hard work and determination, selflessness and sacrifice, and of the value of friendship and the blessings of family. This monument reminds us of our obligations to each other as human beings. And it stands here as solidly as our commitment to see to it that no other miners and no other miners’ families, ever again, suffer the same tragic loss as those of Upper Big Branch,” said Rahall.
A copy of Rahall’s prepared remarks follows.
Remarks by U.S. Representative Nick J. Rahall
At the Dedication of the Upper Big Branch Miners Memorial
Whitesville, West Virginia
July 27, 2012
Today, we have found rest for the weary.
Rest for 29 good souls who shall forever live on in our hearts, now live forever and a day on ground made hallow by many who never met them, but who knew them because they were coal miners. An overnight memorial of candlelight and bouquets now becomes a monument for the ages.
It has been noted that a company named Rock of Ages of St. Peters, Pennsylvania, created these handsome granite panels. Sometimes there is divine poetry for the faithful in what others might dismiss as mere coincidence. But the line from the old hymn, “Rock of ages, cleft for me” comes to mind as we dedicate this rock upon which we can build a cathedral of memories.
Its simple majesty helps bring restful peace, not only to this lovely valley, but for the 29 families, who, rightly so, are tremendously proud of their loved ones. And this wall of honor harkens to those from decades past. It is a roll call for generations of miners and their families – that they, too, are arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder, with these 29.
I say to the families who are here today: remove any doubt that your loved ones are remembered. Those vibrant individuals for whom this memorial is erected are not forgotten by us.
They are remembered as sinew and bone, flesh and blood, kin and friend. To those whose lives they touched, those men will always be remembered, sometimes for the simplest things. For the sound of their voice offering up grace from the head of the dinner table; for the hearty laugh at a good joke; the scent of their favorite cologne; the work boots that tracked mud through the house, and, perhaps, even the colorful expressions that issued forth from the recliner as they watched their favorite football team.
We will never forget the fathers, grandfathers, sons, brothers, neighbors who perished needlessly in that mine on April 5, 2010.
This monument now joins the symphony of memorials to noble individuals that reside in cities large and small all around the globe. Washington, D.C., is filled with monuments. They bear the names of political leaders, great thinkers, and courageous veterans.
Yet, I think we all recognize that such structures stand not simply as reminders of the individuals whose likeness they bear or whose names they carry.
I have often witnessed visitors to our Nation’s Capitol in tears as they walk along the Vietnam Veterans wall. They will stand the Lincoln Memorial and look toward the Capitol dome, out across the vast expansive mall, in silent awe. They will walk around the Jefferson Memorial deep in thought, reading his immortal words engraved in stone.
Great monuments are those that remind us of mankind’s hopes, aspirations, ideals, values, and responsibilities. This is such a monument. It reminds us of kindness, courage, hard work and determination, selflessness and sacrifice, and of the value of friendship and the blessings of family. This monument reminds us of our obligations to each other as human beings. And it stands here as solidly as our commitment to see to it that no other miners and no other miners’ families, ever again, suffer the same tragic loss as those of Upper Big Branch.
I assure you that I will continue to do everything in my power in support of justice for those miners. And I will continue pressing for safer and healthier conditions for those who labor in our mines now and in the future.
Today, we dedicate this magnificent tribute, a great memorial to such good men. But I surely hope that we never have the need to erect one like it, ever again. That, to me, would be the ultimate monument to our miners.