By Nick Brockman
On the first anniversary of the Upper Big Branch mine disaster, many are expected to stop and share a moment of silence today in respect for the 29 miners who died and two injured and to honor the first responders, mine rescue teams, family members and friends left to mourn.
A private, invitation-only ceremony will be held 6 p.m. at Whitesville Elementary School, while a public event, hosted by the Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce, will take place at First Christian Church in Beckley at 3 p.m. Many more county and statewide events are scheduled, including the laying of a wreath at the Miners Memorial in Charleston at 10 a.m. by acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
BRCCC project chairman Mick Bates said the chamber is also encouraging individuals to wear their stripes, whether it’s a coal miner’s uniform, striped shirt or tie.
“We want everybody in Beckley and Raleigh County to wear stripes to work that day as a sign of our support,” he said.
At 3 p.m., the estimated time of the UBB explosion, the chamber will hold a public ceremony at First Christian Church, located at the corner of Fayette and Prince streets.
The Beckley Fire Department will ring a bell from one of its retired fire trucks 29 times. The ceremony will also include Scripture reading, lighting of candles, reading of names of the 29 deceased miners and a moment of prayer and reflection, Bates said.
The chamber will also unveil a pictorial rendering of a future marker similar to that of the Eccles Mine Explosion marker at the Raleigh County Courthouse lawn.
In conjunction with the ceremony, the chamber has asked all local churches to ring their bells and for individuals to observe 1 minute and 29 seconds of silence at that time, Bates said.
During the moment of silence, the chamber is asking businesses and individuals to observe a “blackout” and turn off all lights.
Tomblin is requesting statewide observances to occur starting at 3:01 p.m. today in honor of the victims. Tomblin requested every church in the state to ring its bell 29 times at that time.
In Whitesville, a private ceremony planned and organized by a committee, consisting of Whitesville council members, the mayor and volunteers, appointed by the town of Whitesville, will commence at 6 p.m.
The ceremony will begin with seating of the families and follow with posting of the colors by the Charleston Fire Department Honor Guard. The national anthem will follow with an opening prayer by Pastor David Minturn next.
The ceremony committee’s leader, David Hodges, also assistant fire chief and EMS operations manager at Whitesville Fire Department, will offer a welcome, and then local singer Matt Jones will perform a musical selection.
A gospel passage will be read by West Virginia State Police chaplain Jim Mitchell. Then, Mitchell will read the names of each of the 29 deceased miners. A bell will ring after each name is read.
Tomblin, U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, Sen. Joe Manchin and Rep. Nick Rahall will share brief remarks.
The ceremony is closed to the public, but it will be streamed live at www.facesofthemine. com.
The ceremony to be held in Beckley will be available through a webcast via a link at www.wvnstv.com.
Bates asked all who plan to attend the First Christian Church ceremony to be seated by 2:45 p.m.
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