Quecreek miners have reason to give thanks

Friday, November 29, 2002

There was plenty to be thankful for this Thanksgiving Day in Somerset, Pa. -- the town near the Quecreek coal mine where nine miners were trapped for 77 hours last July after they accidentally dug into an abandoned mine full of floodwater. All nine miners were rescued. And this week the mine reopened.

The nine rescued miners, however, have said they don't want to work underground any more. Thanks to the sales of movie rights and other offers, they probably don't have to if they don't want to. Their ordeal and the efforts to rescue them have already been showcased in a made-for-TV movie.

The mine rescue came just nine months after another nearby tragedy. Somerset is about 10 miles from Shanksville, Pa., which is where one of the planes taken over by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001, crashed in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Getting the miners out alive was truly a heroic effort. Those in charge of the rescue had to pick a likely spot to drill shafts -- a small one first for air and communication, a larger one next for removing the miners -- based on mine maps and surface surveys. The accuracy of pinpointing where to drill was so precise that the drill bits practically came down on the trapper miners.

Not all mine tragedies turn out so well. When they do, giving thanks becomes a community affair.

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