July 28, 2008

QUECREEK MINE DISASTER: A 21st Century Historical Site in Somerset County, PA

United Airline Flight 93 Temporary Crash Site Memorial; United Airline Flight 93
Memorial Chapel and the Quecreek Mine Rescue Site

       Visitors flock to three isolated, tranquil Laurel Mountain Ridge sites, each commemorating recent rather than past history. Two involve the crash of United Airline Flight 93, Sept. 11, 2001; the third, the Quecreek Mine rescue, July 2002.
      The evolving sites have different sponsorships—two are private; the third involves the government. Regardless, their sentiments are similar, predominated by mourning, hope and remembrance; love of God and country; appreciation and gratitude for heroic actions. Missing are references to the hijackers, four of the fatalities, and messages of anger, revenge, hate or politics.
      The temporary sites are constantly reshaped with memorabilia left by visitors. Leaving a part of themselves may be the only way visitors can weave their own story into these historical events.
      The following post is on the Quecreek Mine Rescue site, where the ground was recently broken for a museum building.


Photo Illustrations:

     Several miles from the September 11, 2001, Flight 93 crash site near Somerset, Pennsylvania, is the 212-year-old Dormel Farm, site of the Quecreek Mine rescue. The sacred land just off State Route 985, is owned by Bill and Lori Arnold.
    It took only a moment for miners to break a wall releasing over 55 million gallons of rushing, chilly water; it took 77 hours



 to rescue nine men trapped 240 feet underground.
     My husband and I were visiting my sister in New Jersey at the time of the accident. We watched the events on television from there.

     A wide, unpaved driveway leading to a large, dark turquoise building provides parking. Outside the building is a handicapped parking sign and a park bench. Adjacent to the driveway is a patio with a 7-foot bronze statue of a miner, pickax at his side, holding a book open to the following:
They who work the mine
And they who read great books.
Are but one, their name is human…
By the labor of their hands,
Through the exercise of their minds
And in the strength of their spirit,
They will prevail.   7 May 2002  Kathryn Teagarden.

     The patio’s donated bricks convey messages: John Lucza, 1885 Carpatho, Russia UMWA; Sunshine Mine 1903…the Buordesses; In God we trust; Nine for Nine; Thank you; In memory of the miracle…Answered Prayers…George H. Miller, Rockwood Mines, Gray Mine 1920s. Blank bricks outnumber engraved bricks.

     At one end of a waist-high stone wall a steel angel stretches her arms toward the miner. An aluminum box mounted on the wall requests: Please support the “Monument For Life Park” with your $3 per person donation. Thank you. A peek over the wall gives a bird’s eye view of an evolving park.

     A path slopes to a circle filled with white pebbles, where a grate-sided flat-topped piece of metal holds a small silk flower arrangement and a small American flag. This ordinary looking well covering protects tourists from a dangerous 36-inch diameter hole… THIS is the hole dug deep to rescue the miners…the hole precisely placed by modern engineering for the rescue…the hole where the first drill bit broke, distressing the rescuers, yet bringing a blessing of time to pump water from the mine, enabling a successful rescue.

      To its side is the smaller, capped white pipe that provided air for the miners. A nearby boulder is engraved in green: Gene D. Yost & Son Inc. and a small mining scene engraved in black.

      Another circle is formed by four evergreens (five need to be replaced since they, unlike the miners, didn’t survive) and nine boulders (that honor the miners who escaped ahead of the flood).

     In the circle’s center is a red oak tree. A bronze plaque on a boulder at the circle’s edge explains: “The symbol of the red oak, here, is of course, faith. The 9 evergreens are to represent miners, but in a larger sense, all of us. We all must sometimes bind ourselves together as “the nine” did when the leaves of faith have fallen like that of the oak in autumn. When we long for the shelter of the oak to protect us from the cold and dark, we must realize that in the coldest winter of our lives, or the darkest mine, when there seems to be no life in the oak—His roots run deep—His limbs outstretched—calling us to Him. And in His shadow, we will all be reborn in spring.  The Arnold Family”

     Further on is a 36-inch diameter pipe, about knee high, filled with cement. This was the backup hole, dug in case the broken drill bit rendered the first hole useless. Beside it is a 30 foot, rusty pipe, capped at one end—an unused airlock, a tool available if a fast rescue was needed. It’s an inviting piece of “playground” equipment for a child to crawl in.

      In the distance is an old, weathered gray barn and a white farmhouse. Cars, speeding down Route 985, are visible through a row of trees edging the farm and Route 985.

     The turquoise building is part museum, educational center and shop. Seats accommodate visitors while the Arnolds greet people and talk about the rescue.

     A pallet supports the 30-inch diameter, 2000-pound drill bit that broke 105 feet into the ground (where the limestone changes into sandstone). Its center is shattered. Engraved on the drill is Gene Yost & Son.

     An overshot—bright blue with white signatures—is eye-catching. White letters on its side read “Center Rock.” The 4 ½-foot high 36-inch diameter tool retrieved the broken drill from the unfinished rescue hole.

     Museum pieces include mining posters, photo albums showing details of the rescue, a guest book and a glass case displaying miner’s equipment—lights, an old axe with one side broken off.

     Merchandise is interspersed with the displays. T-shirts, mugs, crocks, blankets and other items state: 9-9 Dormel Farm. We raise miners. Also available are post cards, jars or mini-buckets of coal and 48- to 154-piece jigsaw puzzles.

     Above a short-legged table and small chairs a poster signed with children’s names reads: To the Arnold Family, From Elders Ridge Elementary 5th Grade, Thank you so much for allowing us to visit your “Historical” site!

Additional Reading:













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