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Opinion

November 20, 2013

Farmington men’s sacrifice saved lives of future miners

Arthur Anderson Jr. Jack Armstrong. Thomas Ashcraft. Jimmy Barr. Orval Beam. John Joseph Bingamon. Thomas Boggess. Louis Boros. Harold Butt. Lee Carpenter. David Cartwright. William Currence. Dale Davis. Albert DeBerry. Howard Deel. George Decker. James Efaw. Joe Ferris. Virgil “Pete” Forte. Hilery Wade Foster. Aulda Freeman Jr. Robert Glover. Forrest Goff. John Gouzd. Charles Hardman. Ebert Hartzell. Simon Hayes. Paul Henderson. Roy Henderson Sr. Stever Horvath. Junior Jenkins. James Jones. Peter Kaznoski Sr. Robert Kerns. Charles King. James Ray Kniceley. George Kovar. David Mainella Sr. Walter Martin. Frank Matish. Hartsel Mayle. Dennis McDonald. Emilio Megna. Jack Michael. Wayne Minor. Charles Moody. Paul Moran. Adron Morris. Joseph Muto. Randall Parsons. Raymond Parsons. Nicholas Petro. Fred Burt Rogers. William Sheme. Robert Sigley. Henry Skarzinski. Russell Snyder. John Sopuch. Jerry Stoneking. Harry Strait. Albert Takacs. William Takacs. Dewey Tarley. Frank Tate Jr. Goy Taylor. Hoy Taylor. Edwin Tennant. Homer Tichenor. Dennis Toler. John Toothman. Gorman Trimble. Roscoe Triplett. William Walker. James Walters. Lester Willard. Edward Williams. Lloyd William Wilson. Jerry Yanero.

These men were fathers, husbands, brothers and sons.

And they were the 78 men who lost their lives in the Farmington mine disaster 45 years ago today.

Although 21 miners were able to survive the explosion that rocked the No. 9 mine of Consolidation Coal Co. early that morning, Nov. 20, 1968, is a day that changed the county’s history forever.

It altered the course of mine safety legislation for generations to come as well.

In the months following the mine disaster, the widows and family members of the miners killed lobbied Capitol Hill in an effort to keep other families from having to go through a tragedy like the one in Farmington. The result was the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969, which created mine safety regulations to protect miners.

As United Mine Workers International President Cecil Roberts said during Sunday’s annual memorial service, the men killed that day made a terrible sacrifice, but saved the lives of future miners.

During the 25 years before the passage of the 1969 Coal Mine Health and Safety Act, approximately 30,000 people lost their lives in the mines. But in the 25 years that followed the legislation, less than 3,000 miners died. In addition, the year after the Farmington mine disaster, black lung was recognized by the state of West Virginia and the United States government as an occupational illness, Roberts said.

We know nothing can make up for the pain the families of these men felt in the days, weeks and even years following their untimely deaths. But we hope their families know those deaths were not in vain, and the changes that have happened in the mining industry as a result have helped save countless lives.

May the 78 miners from Farmington No. 9 never be forgotten.

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