Farmington Mine Disaster Commemorates 43rd Anniversary - WBOY.com: Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Farmington Mine Disaster Commemorates 43rd Anniversary

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FARMINGTON -

Mining is deeply engraved in the history and culture of West Virginia.

When a tragedy occurs in one community, it affects the entire state.

On the morning of November 20, 43 years ago, the lives of 78 miners' families changed forever.

That morning, an explosion at the Consol Number 9 Mine just outside of Farmington, only allowed 21 of the 99 miners inside to escape.

"They're heroes. These 78 men are truly heroes in the working miners' eyes today. After this explosion, the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act was passed in 1969, which literally saved thousands and thousands of lives," said Mike Caputo, the international vice president of UMWA District 31.

On Sunday, family and friends gathered at the site where 19 of those who died that day still remain.

The annual service has become a reunion, and a reminder to families that the sacrifice they made will never be forgotten.

"The reason why I'm here, is in honor of my dad's memory. It's because of him and the other 77 miners that everybody is safe to go to work and being comfortable with it now," said Sharon Clelland, who's father was killed in the explosion.

For the first time since the services began at the mine site, all of Sharon's brothers and sisters were there to stand proudly with their mother.

"He has a cloud of glory. His face is so full of smiles now. He'd be so happy that we're still together as a family. Family meant everything to Dad, and to know that we're still as close today, as we were when we were little is just awesome," beamed Clelland.  

Mining laws have evolved since 1968, but the work is not done yet. 

"We've come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. Upper Big Branch reminds us of that," said Caputo.

While there may not be a crowd at the Number 9 memorial everyday like there was on Sunday, all are invited to visit the site, and of course attend the service next year.

"Every year it's getting bigger and it's so awesome seeing everyone coming out. More families coming out and supporting things like this. It's great," said Clelland.