The Times West Virginian

Local News

November 20, 2013

Joe Megna’s father was working last shift before retirement when killed in 1968 Farmington mine blast

FAIRMONT — Nov. 20, 1968, could have easily been a day of trout fishing for Emilio Megna.

The night before, his son Joe unsuccessfully tried to persuade him to skip work, join him on a fishing trip and begin his retirement one day early.

But instead, Emilio did what he had done for the past 31 years. He put on his hard hat and went to work in the coal mine.

“He said, ‘I owe them that much,’” Joe said.

So while Emilio was getting ready for his last shift at the Farmington No. 9 mine, Joe was spending the night at his best friend Danny’s house. Once Emilio’s retirement was official, he and Danny had planned to go into business together and open a gas station in Worthington.

That plan would never come to fruition.

“I’ll never forget it. While I was staying at Danny’s house his mom hollered upstairs and asked where my dad worked,” Megna said. “I said, ‘No. 9’ and she said, ‘It blew up.’” 

Megna said he took off running down the hill to his house where he turned on the TV to confirm the news before driving to the site of the disaster.

“Everybody met at the company store and stood there and waited in the cold for them to come along and tell us what was happening,” Megna said.

Seventy-eight men lost their lives in the explosion that day. Nineteen of them, including Emilio, who was 48, were never recovered.

Megna said that from that moment on, his life would be forever changed.

“My mom raised me and my sisters,” he said. “I was the youngest and she had her hands full, so I worked from the time I was 16 until I retired because we had no money coming in at the time.” 

Megna held odd jobs, from working in gas stations to furniture stores, before eventually ending up in the coal mines himself.

“It paid top rate. Fifty dollars a day,” Megna said.

But the thought of his father and that fateful day at Farmington No. 9 was never far away.

“I was on the mine rescue team, and when we would practice we went over to No. 9,” Megna said. “That’s where we trained.” 

Megna said the training at No. 9 stirred up memories and that to this day he still questions what went wrong 45 years ago.

“I’ll go to my grave never knowing,” Megna said. “But I will find out one day. Not here, but some place else.” 

Megna said he knows the family members of the other miners who were killed that day feel the same.

“There were 78 families involved,” Megna said. “It’s a never-ending story when you don’t have closure and there are 19 bodies left in the mines, even if it was almost 50 years ago.”

Every year, Megna and his family honor those men whose lives were claimed in the mine disaster at the annual remembrance service at the Farmington No. 9 Mine Memorial on Flat Run Road in Mannington.

There, Megna pays tribute to his father in a special way.

“I have a stone right there at the No. 9 memorial for my dad,” Megna said. “It has my dad’s name on it.”

Two years ago, when Megna’s mother, Gladys, passed away on Nov. 17, 2011, from breast cancer, her name was added to the stone.

“She was cremated and we buried her right there with my dad,” Megna said.

Megna said November is a difficult month for him and his family, but he added that if nothing else, the disaster of 1968 at least called for some change.

“That’s what gave the federal government power to oversee the mines,” Megna said in reference to the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969, which created mine safety regulations to protect miners. “I hope one of these days they can stop the unnecessary accidents that happen.” 

Although Megna has several questions that remain unanswered after all these years, there’s one thing about his father that he’s sure of.

“He was the hardest working man there ever was,” he said.

Email Kaylyn Christopher at or follow her on Twitter @KChristopherTWV.

Text Only
Local News
  • $5,000 allocated to Korean War Veterans Memorial

    The Korean War Veterans Memorial in Marion County is closer to completion thanks to an allocation from the county commission.

    July 30, 2014

  • Fairmont man arrested on heroin charges

    A Fairmont man has been arrested on heroin charges.

    July 30, 2014

  • Ronald Mersky-EG.JPG Landfill safety taught at workshop

     Educators from around the state started a three-day workshop to learn more about recycling.
    The Marion County Recycling and Litter Control, and Project ALERT partnered with West Virginia University and NASA IV & V Facility to host “Marion County, West Virginia, Earth and Beyond” workshop.
    On Tuesday, educators learned more about recycling solid waste material properly.

    July 30, 2014 2 Photos

  • FirstEnergy ending retiree health care subsidies Dec. 31

    he end is drawing near for FirstEnergy Corp.’s health care subsidies for retirees.
    As of Jan. 1, 2015, FirstEnergy will no longer provide subsidized health care for retirees. Todd Meyers, spokesman for Mon Power, which is one of the utility companies under FirstEnergy, said this was a complex decision.
    “It’s a difficult thing, I know, but health care costs have skyrocketed in this country and many companies have had to unfortunately trim back on health care,” he said.

    July 30, 2014

  • Alecto plans changes for FGH

    Fairmont General Hospital’s sales proceedings are moving forward with the approval of Alecto Healthcare Services Fairmont LLC’s Certificate of Need (CON) by the West Virginia Healthcare Authority July 21.
    In West Virginia, a CON is required of all health care providers before they add or expand health care services, exceed the capital expenditure threshold of $3,048,803, obtain medical equipment that is valued at $3,048,803 or developing or acquiring

    July 30, 2014

  • City wooding door -ts.jpg City needs ‘room to grow’

     Fairmont city officials and staff boarded a city bus Tuesday to take tours of three potential sites for a new Municipal Building Complex.
    One of the sites was the Huntington Bank on Adams Street downtown, followed by the City Center building (also known as the old Post Office) and the Masonic Temple on Jefferson Street. While the Huntington Bank building currently houses both Huntington Bank and additional tenants, the City Center building and the Masonic Temple are both currently vacant. The city currently owns the Masonic Temple; if chosen, the other two properties would need to be purchased from their present owners.

    July 30, 2014 9 Photos

  • Fairmont man sentenced for sexual assault, burglaries

    A Fairmont man will serve three to 35 years in prison for sexually assaulting a juvenile and for nighttime burglaries.
    Matthew Allen Martin, 26, of Fairmont, entered a plea agreement with the state Tuesday. He pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl and two counts of burglary.

    July 30, 2014

  • FGH sales proceedings move forward

    Fairmont General Hospital’s sales proceedings are moving forward with the approval of Alecto Healthcare Services Fairmont LLC’s Certificate of Need by the West Virginia Healthcare Authority July 21.

    July 29, 2014

  • End near for FirstEnergy subsidies for retirees

    The end is drawing near for FirstEnergy Corp.’s health care subsidies for retirees.

    July 29, 2014

  • Chamber hosts adult education event

    The Marion County Chamber of Commerce helped local adults find new opportunities through its Beyond the Backyard adult education event Tuesday.

    July 29, 2014

Featured Ads
TWV Video Highlights
NDN Editor's Picks
House Ads