Faith Remains As Mine Search Nears End
- Faith Remains As Mine Search Nears End
Forbes - NY, USABy CHELSEA J. CARTER and JENNIFER DOBNERAssociated PressAugust 15, 2007
People here believe in miracles. Small ones, where a kind word or a soft touch can make all the difference. Big ones, too - like finding six men in a collapsed mountain mine nearly three weeks after they were trapped.
As a drill chewed through rock and coal Saturday, inching along in a final effort to reach the miners, their friends and families clung to what they called an unyielding faith that will carry them through, whatever the outcome.
The Crandall Canyon Mine's co-owner has said this hole, the sixth drilled more than 1,500 feet into the mountain, will be the last effort to find a sign of the men, who may not have survived the massive cave-in Aug. 6.
Previous holes have yielded only grainy video images and poor air samples, and efforts to signal the miners have been met with silence. Tunneling into the mine was abandoned after another collapse killed three rescue workers and injured six others.
Against the odds that loom over the mountain, though, the people in central Utah's coal belt still have hope. It's a belief built on faith in God, in one another and in the tradition of coal mining, to hear them tell it.
"They say there's no way to get them out. But there's always that little sliver of hope," says Tammy Pierce, whose friend of 25 years, Kerry Allred, is among the missing.
Pierce, 47, cites stories she has heard over the years about miners surviving underground for long periods. Miners are hardy people use to extreme conditions and trained to survive, she says.
"Until you really know, you can't give up," she said. "There's always the 'maybe,' always the 'if.'"
There are outward signs of this belief everywhere: It's in the simple word - "pray" - painted on car windows and written on signs hung from store fronts and picture windows. It's in the moments of silence and the candlelight vigils held on street corners and in parks.
It's in the words of pastor Dan Samuelson of Price Chapel delivering a non-denominational prayer: "You understand that even though we go through the valley of the shadow of death, there is still in us a desire to find answers, there is in us a desire to find hope and there is a desire within us to have something to hold on to."
Here, in one of the more religiously and ethnically diverse areas of the state, faith transcends the religions of the townspeople - Mormon, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Seventh-day Adventist, Episcopal - who make up the "Land of Imagination," as it's advertised to tourists.
Lynn Peacock watches his granddaughter, 1-year-old Cienna Peacock, push a stroller through a park and wonders what she will know of her other grandfather, miner Manuel Sanchez, if he doesn't come home.
"That first week, she would say, 'Go see Grampa?'" he said. He pauses for a minute, wondering how much she really understands.
His faith, Peacock later says, is rooted in his granddaughter and the people around her who have embraced the family. People he hasn't seen in years have turned out at benefits and services, offering his family a comforting word or a prayer.
"It's the people here who make it this way," he says.
It seems just about everybody in these communities know somebody involved in the mine disaster - those trapped, those killed or injured or those working to save them.
"You're dependent on each other for your life sometimes and if something happens to somebody, everybody dives in, they don't ask no questions," said Al Gray, 81, a retired federal mine safety investigator.
Although he said he can't speak for others, Gray said faith was an important tool that he carried with him into the mines.
"If I didn't have a lot of faith, I'd never gone underground because it's a hazardous occupation, it always has been, it always will be," he said.
Penelope Diamanti, 44, recently stood a few feet from Allred's son at a benefit in neighboring Helper to raise money for the families of the missing men and the three rescuers who were killed.
She has never met the Allreds. But that mattered little.
"They pull their faith and strength from their God and their community," she said. "They know they are not alone."___________________________________________________________
United States Mine Rescue Association