By Kyleigh Nevis
A memorial service was held on April 25th for the 29 miners who were killed in the Upper Big Branch Mine in Beckley, West Virginia. The tragic event occurred in Coal River Valley, just three miles from Marsh Fork Elementary School, where the On Coal River film crew has spent the last five years capturing the harmful effects of mountaintop removal mining.
The explosion shook the nation on April 5th–flags were placed at half-mast and the American public put their politics aside to mourn the deaths of the innocent miners.
President Obama attended the somber event and delivered a heartfelt eulogy to roughly 2,800 mourners at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center. The president and vice president both spoke of the tragedy and the effects of mining on American lives.
President Obama praised the strength of the Buckley community and sympathized with the grieving families. Vice President Biden acknowledged the need to make mining safer.
The Washington Post quoted Vice President Biden: “As a community and a nation, we could compound tragedy if we let life go on unchanged. Certainly, no one should have to sacrifice his life for his livelihood.”
At the close of the four-hour ceremony, each of the 29 families entered the room with a mining helmut, turned on its light and placed it on one of the 29 white crosses that stood on stage in memory of the men lost.
For more information about the ceremony and a link to the transcript of Obama’s eulogy: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/04/25/national/main6431005.shtml
Other newspapers that covered the event: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/25/AR2010042501013.html