By Sarah Plummer
On today’s third anniversary of the Upper Big Branch Mine Explosion, the Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce will honor the victims by unveiling a memorial marker placed on the Raleigh County Courthouse lawn.
A reception with remarks will be held at 2 p.m. in the former Burnside Courtroom on the second floor of the courthouse.
The marker will then be unveiled on the courthouse lawn at 3 p.m.
The memorial, which joins an historical marker remembering the Eccles Mine Disaster of 1914, will list the names of the 29 miners who perished in the explosion on April 5, 2010, as well as show appreciation to those who continue to go to work in the mines each day.
Mick Bates, chamber member and project chair, said he hopes this marker and additional landscaping will help the community acknowledge the event, heal and move forward.
Bates said dignitaries have been invited to attend the unveiling.
The Raleigh County Courthouse UBB Miners Memorial Marker has been funded through a partnership between the chamber of commerce, the Raleigh County Commission and a state grant.
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For the first year since the disaster, there will not be an official ceremony held in Whitesville; however, The Upper Big Branch Mining Memorial Group will be placing a wreath near the miner’s monument this morning and invites the public to visit the memorial today to reflect and pay respect in their own way.
Mike Gwinn, vice president of the group, said they decided not to obligate the family of the fallen miners to participate in a formal ceremony this year. Instead, he hopes the families and the community will use the monument as it is intended — for individuals and groups to pay respect, reflect, and pray as each sees fit.
The Upper Big Branch Mining Memorial Group released the following statement: “Today our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the men lost at the Upper Big Branch Coal Mine three years ago, the survivors and their families who face a difficult road to recovery in the years to come, and the many people in our community still struggling to cope with the enormity of the disaster. May God bless the families of the men taken from us at Upper Big Branch and the West Virginia coal miner, our state’s greatest resource.”
The group also stated, “We offer our most sincere thanks and appreciation to the dedicated first responders and mine rescue teams that rushed from near and far to aid the fallen miners and to the thousands of people who donated to multiple relief efforts to support the families immediately after the disaster.
“We are encouraged by the recent news that mine safety legislation in Washington, which would address the failures that led to the UBB disaster, is being reworked and proposed again this year after past attempts in 2010, 2011 and 2012. We remind the West Virginia state delegation of the content of their speeches at the UBB Memorial Dedication last July and urge them to work diligently to follow through on those words.”
Information about the miners and the memorial can be viewed at the UBB Miners Memorial website, www.ubbminersmemorial.com.
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