updated 1/4/2006 2:53:52 PM ET 2006-01-04T19:53:52

Guests Rick Dunlap, Albert Schrieve (ph), Lisa Tharis, Kay Weaver, Eddie Hamner, Bruce Deial

RITA COSBY, HOST:  And, Tucker, thanks so much.  If you are just joining us at this hour, we have incredible, breathtaking news that we just got in just a few moments ago, that we just reported, that NBC News has learned and has confirmed, indeed, that the miners, the 12 of them, have just been found alive.

This is breaking news that we just got in the last few minutes.  And just to give you a sense of how stunning this was, I was down there talking to family members maybe about 20, 30 minutes ago, and they were so grim, so despondent, did not think that there was a chance that their loved ones would be found alive, particularly after word came down around 9:00 p.m. Eastern time that a body was located about 11,000 miles in from the portal.  That‘s the opening shaft.

So when they found that one particular body, no mask on that body, maybe some indications that it was overcome by some fumes, they really feared the worst.  They said there are 12 missing miners, but I don‘t think anybody ever anticipated in a million years that these miners would be found alive.

And we just got word, just a few moments ago, the bells are ringing here in Sago, West Virginia.  Cheering, happy family members hugging each other and just astounded and so incredibly relieved that their loved ones are alive.

We have with us joining us right now, Ron Allen of NBC.  You know, Ron, you and I were talking about five minutes ago, saying, “What‘s going to happen?  How are these family members going to handle the bad news, when it comes, because that‘s what everybody predicted?”

What‘s your reaction?  This is incredible.

RON ALLEN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, yes, I‘d love to find out exactly what happened, because—well, one thing, there have been no noise.  There have been no communication, no contact with the miners.  That‘s why there was not a lot of optimism.

But there was a lot of faith, a lot of hope, and the governor kept talking about a miracle.  And people here believed in a miracle, and apparently it‘s happened.

Apparently, down below ground, it‘s fairly—there‘s a fairly intricate set of tunnels and passages.  And the best news was that the—when the car, the tram that carried the miners was found in perfect condition, they said, well, that‘s a very positive sign, because obviously it meant that the miners had left this area before the explosion.  They had gone somewhere else into the mine.

So it‘s incredible.  I mean, it‘s just incredible.

COSBY:  It is incredible.  And, in fact, we were just showing a little shot there, if you‘re watching at home, as I hope you are, for this incredible news.  We were just showing a shot on the other side there, awaiting a news conference.

We are told that probably, in the next few moments, as you‘re looking at a live picture there, we will have some reaction, probably, from the governor of West Virginia, who just about half-an-hour or so ago was quite despondent.  Also, the owners of the mine, International Coal Group, that bought the mine a year ago, they will, I‘m sure, no doubt comment.  And we‘ll probably hear from a lot of very happy family members.

You know, Ron, you were just down there talking to the governor, what, about half-an-hour or so ago.  What was his reaction?  At that point, we found that the one body had been located.

ALLEN:  Right, right.  Even more so than the governor, we were standing outside the church.  And the families were coming out one by one in small groups.  Some were in tears.  Some were just despondent after hearing that there had been a body found.  And as much as people talked about their faith and their hope, some were just devastated.

And for this to happen so quickly, without any warning, without any indication that it might happen, it‘s really a miracle.  And imagine the story that these miners are going to tell when they come up. 

And everyone was comparing it to the situation in Pennsylvania a few years ago.  But this just sounded so grim.  It just sounded so grim, because there was no noise, there was no communication with them.  There was this talk of a huge explosion down there.  All this...

COSBY:  Carbon monoxide, triple levels.

ALLEN:  Right.  We heard a few hours ago, earlier in the day, that there were poisonous levels in the air, of air, that it was not sustainable, that it was an environment where, who would believe that anyone could survive?  But they have.  And, Lord knows, it‘s a miracle.

COSBY:  Incredible.

ALLEN:  It‘s just...

COSBY:  Ron, stick with us, if you could.  I want to bring into the conversation, if I could, Rick Dunlap and Albert Schrieve (ph).  Both of them are miners and good friends of the guys inside.

First of all, Rick, if I can get you in, what is your reaction?  I don‘t know if you just heard the news, but 12 men have just been found alive, 12 of your friends.

RICK DUNLAP, FORMER MINER:  I heard the news.  I was sitting on the couch about half asleep and very depressed.  And then this—and after it come over the news, it was just like—you know, it was a joy that you wouldn‘t believe.

COSBY:  You know the guys inside. 

DUNLAP:  Yes, I was there for...

COSBY:  Give us a sense of who these guys are.  How experienced are they?

DUNLAP:  Some of the guys that I know had 30 years experience.  You know, it‘s just a miracle.  And God was holding their hand.

COSBY:  How did you find out the news, Rick?  Did you hear it from us?

DUNLAP:  Yes, I was sitting here watching MSNBC, about half asleep, you know, upset because the one body was found and had really looking for the worst news to come across.  And then it come across, and, you know, I talked to you guys.  I‘m talking on the cell phone to my family members right now.  So it‘s just, you know, it‘s a great joy.

COSBY:  How many did you know inside, Rick?  How many of the guys did you know inside?

DUNLAP:  I know six of the guys, almost half of them.

COSBY:  Oh, that‘s great. 

Hey, and let me bring in Albert Schrieve.  Albert, you and I are old friends.  And you messaged me, and I got a message from a mutual friend saying that you knew the folks inside.

What is your reaction?  This has just got to be a great feeling.  Albert, can you hear us?  I think we lost Albert on the phone.  We‘ll try to redial them.

But, Rick Dunlap, if you‘re still there, I understand, you know, Rick, this must just be—what an amazing—how miraculous is this?  Oops, I think we lost Rick Dunlap.

Everybody, breaking news.  This is what happens.  Let‘s go to Bob Hager, if we could.

Bob Hager, you know, you and I have been talking for the last two days.  How incredible is this news?

ROBERT HAGER, NBC NEWS ANALYST:  Just unbelievable, Rita.  Just unbelievable.  To think that a miracle like this could strike twice within 3 ½ years in this dangerous, dangerous profession, what a wonderful, wonderful development.  I just can‘t believe it. 

It‘ll be so wonderful to hear the details of just how these courageous men managed to survive this awful explosion and those high levels of that poisonous gas.  It‘ll be fascinating here, as this story unfolds.  But, my god, for the moment, just what an exhilarating development.

COSBY:  Yes, what do you think happened, Bob?  I mean, what do you surmise, knowing the situation?  We know that they were trapped inside.  Is the only option that they found some sort of small pocket, that remote, remote chance that you and I talked about a few hours ago?

HAGER:  Well, it may be that, on the other side of that explosion, the air was not as toxic as the one—the test that they took from the first shaft that they sent down.  And maybe it was where that shaft happened to be drilled, up in the corner there of this labyrinth of underground tunnels, that the toxic levels of the gas were much higher, but that wherever the men were, that just the toxic levels didn‘t reach that.

Until we know where they found the men—had they abandoned that cart?  Were they working in an area off a shaft, and that shaft did not get the brunt of the product of the combustion when the explosion occurred to, with that carbon monoxide?  That‘s what, you know, may have occurred.  But it‘ll be fascinating, as I say, to hear.

But for the meantime, my god, what exhilarating news.

COSBY:  I just don‘t—I was stunned, too, especially here on the ground, Bob.  You know, the mood, as you know, was very dismal. 

HAGER:  Oh, it certainly was.  Gosh...

COSBY:  The governor said—you know, it would take a miracle.  I mean, the chances were so slim.

HAGER:  The off-the-air indications, I mean, they just—people sounded so pessimistic, that this comes as such a wonderful, wonderful surprise.  And not too far into this.  After all, it‘s less than two days into it, as it turns out.

COSBY:  You know, give us a sense—you know, Bob, especially after we find out that there‘s one body, certainly the chances of this happening are so incredible remote.  You know, we talked to a lot of folks here who, expert at mining, and they said the chances of this are, you know, one almost in a million, based on the fact that that one body was located, based on the fact of the high levels of carbon monoxide.  This really, truly is a miracle almost, Bob.

HAGER:  Well, those two developments that you cited there were the most—that was the most heartbreaking news, the discovery of that body, and, much earlier in the day, the news that carbon monoxide levels had been so lethal.  So certainly everything pointed in the other direction.  And that‘s what makes this such a wonderfully, wonderfully unexpected ending to this story.

But now, now that we know—certainly, we‘ve been told that they‘re safe and everything, it‘ll, again, be exhilarating to hear the details of just how it happened. 

In the case of the men from Pennsylvania 3 ½ years ago, the stories that they told as they came out of the mines later, and as the story began to unfold, and just where they had gone to get away from the dampness, and the darkness, and the water, in that case, to get to high ground underneath, and the way they had banded together, and the prayers that they said, and the camaraderie that they‘ve developed over their—in their case, the 77 hours of being down underground became just a fascinating, fascinating yarn.  And I‘m sure these men will have absolutely similar tale to tell when they come up.

COSBY:  You bet.  Bob, stay with us, if you could, on the phone.  I want to bring in Albert Schrieve. 

And, Albert, you know some of the miners who were inside.  What‘s your reaction?  This is incredible news, Albert.

ALBERT SCHRIEVE (ph), FRIEND OF MINERS:  It is incredible news.  I mean, I‘d done gave up hope, because...

COSBY:  Yes, I was going to say, don‘t you think a lot of people thought the chances—didn‘t you think—were so slim, Albert?

SCHRIEVE:  They were slim.  I mean, very slim.  I mean, you know, they—all the reports, with the gases and stuff, it was just too slim.  I mean...


COSBY:  What‘s your reaction, Albert, when you found out the news that your friends are alive?

SCHRIEVE:  It‘s great news.  I mean, you know, it‘s just hard to explain.  It‘s great news.

COSBY:  Albert, you know these guys that are inside.  Tell us a little bit about—you know, a little bit about them and the training and, you know, were they ever prepared—are you ever prepared for something like this?

SCHRIEVE:  We‘re trained for it.  I don‘t think we‘re ever prepared for it.  We hope it never happens.  I mean, we have annual training every year.  I mean, all the companies retrain and train us.  And we have safety meetings every morning on it, but it‘s still something you hope never happens.  You hope you never have to use that training, but this is one time where all the training does pay off, even if we do think it‘s boring and we don‘t need it.

COSBY:  Right, you go through it all and you feel it‘s tedious.  And now this is life-saving.

You know, tell us about your friends inside, Albert, the guys you know inside.  Tell us about them.

SCHRIEVE:  I worked them probably 20 years ago in the mines.  I‘ve lost contact with them, but they were great guys.  I mean, we worked in the mines long—oh, back in the ‘80s.  And they were great guys to work with.  They were fun.  And I just—I mean, I gave up hope there after they found that one body, really gave up hope.

COSBY:  Yes, I bet.  Albert, what great news.  Stick with us, if you could.

We have with us on the phone now a sister-in-law of one of the miners, Lisa Tharis.  Lisa, can you hear me?

SCHRIEVE:  Yes, ma‘am.  OK.


COSBY:  Lisa, what‘s—I know you‘re at the church or about a mile away from me.  What‘s your reaction?  What‘s the mood of the people there?

THARIS:  Oh, my god, it‘s absolutely wonderful up here.


We feel sorry for the one family, but it‘s absolutely wonderful for the rest.

COSBY:  How did you find out?  How was the news announced?

THARIS:  Well, actually, I was laying down taking a quick nap, because I haven‘t slept since this began.  And my daughter came running to me, telling me, “Mom, they found Uncle Marshall, and he‘s alive.”

COSBY:  Now, so your loved one is alive?

THARIS:  So I ran barefooted to the church to grab my family. 

COSBY:  And how‘s your family doing?  Were there just tears streaming down their eyes?

THARIS:  Oh, my gosh, it‘s just absolutely wonderful, absolutely wonderful.  There‘s no explanation.  There‘s just no way to explain how wonderful it is.

COSBY:  Do you know anything—you may know more than we do, Lisa, in terms of any details about where they were found.  Do you know anything...

THARIS:  We know nothing.  We know they are fine, they‘re doing well, they‘re being given water, and they will be rescued out.  We do not know how long it will take.  We will be informed as soon as they‘re pulled up to the surface.  That‘s all we‘re told.

COSBY:  So they‘re still in there now, from what you understand?

THARIS:  That is all we‘re told.  They‘re giving them fluids, and they‘re all doing perfectly fine.  They just want to get to the top.

COSBY:  How...

THARIS:  Oh, my God.  It‘s absolutely wonderful.  I‘m so sorry.  I‘ve got to go find my family, OK?

COSBY:  Oh, absolutely.  And congratulations.

THARIS:  Thank you.

COSBY:  Great news.  Congratulations.

Albert, if you‘re still with us, what great news that must be for a mining family, huh?

SCHRIEVE:  Oh, my stepdaughter, she‘s (INAUDIBLE) it‘s been worrying her all along, you know, since it happened.

COSBY:  You know, Albert, the community—explain to us, sort of, the coal-mining community.  You know, I‘ve been so impressed with the folks here.  You know, they seem like a really tight-knit community, right?

SCHRIEVE:  We are a tight-knit community.  I mean, we may not act it when—you know, but when something like this happens, a disaster like this happens, we tighten up.

COSBY:  How dangerous are the mines?  How difficult, you know, is the job?

SCHRIEVE:  (INAUDIBLE) it‘s like going to work any other place, you know?  I mean, there‘s dangers there, but there‘s dangers we never think of.  Of course, our wives and girlfriends, they remind us all the time of it.

COSBY:  Walk us through.  You know, you work a long day.  You get up at, what, 4:00 in the morning.  And you‘re how far in?

SCHRIEVE:  Pardon me?

COSBY:  How far in do you go?  You go very deep in.

SCHRIEVE:  We go about seven or eight miles.

COSBY:  And these guys were located, we believe, about two miles in.  What does it look like two miles in, where these guys were probably found?

SCHRIEVE:  That‘s hard to explain.  It‘s just a long shaft, dark, and they put what they call (INAUDIBLE) down, to kind of hold the dust down so we don‘t have explosions like this.  And it‘s a long, dark hole.

COSBY:  And I understand—yes, I tell you, you guys work, Albert.  Albert, stick with us.  We‘ve got another sister-in-law of a miner on the phone right now.

Can you tell us your name?


COSBY:  Hi, Ms. Weaver.  What is your reaction?  How thrilled are you?

WEAVER:  It‘s a miracle.  It‘s just (INAUDIBLE) to God.


COSBY:  How did you find out the news?

WEAVER:  Some guy come through the church screaming, “It‘s a miracle!  Praise the Lord!”

COSBY:  And did you almost didn‘t believe him at first?

WEAVER:  We were shocked. 

COSBY:  Have you been told anything about the condition of the guys inside?

WEAVER:  No, we haven‘t been told anything, except that they‘re alive.

COSBY:  Tell us about your brother-in-law.  Tell us about him.

WEAVER:  He is a wonderful man.  He‘s very religious.  He‘s a hard worker, a devoted father, uncle, grandfather.  He has two beautiful grandsons that just can‘t wait for him to come home.

COSBY:  How long has he been in the mining business for?

WEAVER:  Thirty-some years.

COSBY:  Did he ever expect his training would come in this handy, huh?

WEAVER:  I really can‘t tell you that.  That was a question we never, ever talked about, but he always...


COSBY:  How are the other family members reacting?

WEAVER:  Thrilled, relieved.

COSBY:  What are the other family members—give us a sense, because this is just—I‘ll tell you, you know, Kay, this is—you know, we‘ve been out on this story, and it looked very, very grim.

WEAVER:  Yes, it did.

COSBY:  And this is just incredible news.  The whole country was praying for all of you.

WEAVER:  It‘s a miracle from God.

COSBY:  What was the mood from the other family members?

WEAVER:  Screaming, hollering, hugging, kissing.

COSBY:  How did the word get around?  I know that you said that the guy started running through.  Who is this guy?  And how did the word spread?

WEAVER:  I have no idea.  I have no idea who he was, just some guy that got the news.

COSBY:  Now, what are the plans there at the church?

WEAVER:  We have no idea.  We‘re standing outside waiting to find out what‘s going to happen, when they‘re going to bring the miners to us.  We were told they were...

COSBY:  And we were just told from another—go ahead.  Go ahead, Kay.

WEAVER:  We were told they‘re supposed to bring the miners to us, but so far, we have not seen anybody.

COSBY:  So they‘re planning on bring them to you?

WEAVER:  As far as we know.

COSBY:  What a great moment.  What are you going to say when you see your brother-in-law?

WEAVER:  Stay out of the mines.


COSBY:  What got you through this, Kay?  What got you through these tough two days?

WEAVER:  The Lord. 

COSBY:  Did you pray a lot through all of this?  And do you think that‘s what helped the other family members?

WEAVER:  Yes, I do.

COSBY:  Well, Kay, I‘m going to let you get back to the beautiful families out there.  And congratulations on this amazing news.

WEAVER:  All right.  Thank you.

COSBY:  Thank you so much, Kay Weaver, whose brother-in-law was inside.  You just heard, an experienced miner, out alive. 

Again, as you can see the headline, that is an accurate headline, everybody.  Twelve miners are found alive.  Remember, 13 of them had been trapped since yesterday morning at 6:30 in the morning, and then they found word that a body was found a couple of hours ago. 

And now the latest word, that 12 miners are alive.  That word just coming down, a total shock to everybody here.  I think everybody on the ground, the officials, as well.  And we‘re waiting word now—if we can show a live picture of the news conference—any moment now, a news conference will be beginning, and that is going to be one heck of a news conference.

All of us, I think, are just sitting on our seat‘s edge waiting to get details as to how they found these guys, what they were doing, how they passed these last two days.  Pretty incredible moment.

Albert, how do you think they got through it?  How do you think these guys got through this?  Albert, are you with me, Albert Schrieve?

SCHRIEVE:  Yes, ma‘am, can you hear me?

COSBY:  Yes, I can hear you, Albert.  Albert, how do you think these guys got through it?

SCHRIEVE:  With the training, all the training we have.  And like everybody says, coal miners are just a special breed of people.  I don‘t think just the normal person could go through it and make it.  You‘ve got to have the training to go with it and the experience.

COSBY:  What do you think it is about the coal miners?  Yes, what do you think it is about their character?  How do you describe the character of a coal miner?

SCHRIEVE:  The character of it?  Well, I don‘t know.  It‘s hard to explain the character of a coal miner, because we‘ve all got so different characters.  Some of us deal with it different ways.

COSBY:  You know, we‘re just getting some word now, everybody—Albert, if you can stick with us—that they are going to be brought to the church, which is about a mile away from here.  What a reunion that‘s going to be for the hundreds of family members who have been standing by.

SCHRIEVE:  Yes, that‘s going to be a great reunion.

COSBY:  Yes, what a great feeling that‘s going to be for those family members, huh, Albert?

SCHRIEVE:  Oh, god.  I couldn‘t imagine the feeling they‘re going to have.  I mean...

COSBY:  Tell us about the experience of the guys you know, Albert, too, because, as you point out, training, you know, you sit there and you feel like it‘s tedious, this long process, but obviously it paid off for these guys.  They did something certainly right to be able to survive this.  Tell us about the experience of the guys there.

SCHRIEVE:  Well, most—the ones I know got at least 30 years experience, you know?  I mean, experience pays off.  And they probably took care of the younger guys.  And the younger guys helped them out, because, you know, with the experience, everybody‘s got to work together.  It‘s got to be a team effort.  It had to be a big team effort to come through this.

COSBY:  Albert, stick with us, because I want to go back to Bob Hager, our NBC analyst.

Bob, you know, Albert was just talking about sticking with it.  Walk us through what happened in Somerset, Pennsylvania.  These guys literally, like, sort of clung to each other.  They prayed.  How did they pass their time for their 77 hours in Pennsylvania?

HAGER:  They did.  In that case, they were battling floodwater that had got into the mine.  And so they were trying to find their way out of the water, out of the deep water, and had the sense of mind to find the high point of the tunnel under there, found a place where they could seek refuge.

But the difference there was that, early in their experience, the drill burst through.  The people up above had skillfully calculated exactly where they were.  And then they dropped this shaft down through that could at least put fresh air into the area and the men were able to tap on the shaft. 

And, at the time, officials weren‘t absolutely certain that they‘d heard a tap, but they believed they had heard a tap.  And then the drill had been withdrawn, because they needed to drill a larger hole.  And so more than 70 hours went by where there was no more, nothing more heard from these men down below, and that‘s when hope sank.  And many people thought that the miners had been lost, only to discover, after some 70 more hours, that, indeed, they had made it through.

Now, let‘s see.  We‘re seeing on the screen there a repeat of what happened in Pennsylvania 3 ½ years ago.  That‘s how that ended, when they drilled that two-foot diameter shaft down to bring the men up from more than 150 feet down.  And there you see one of them coming up, and eventually all nine were brought up successfully.

Imagine these men now—this was a little faster, but still more than 40 hours they were underground.  So they would have had their lunch pails, scared out of their wits, of course, limited water, just their lunch pails to eat.  So they would have tried to ration that out, because they had no way of knowing how they might be down there. 

Batteries they would have used very sparingly to operate any light, because they would have known that they had to conserve it.  Quite sure they did a lot of praying and talking about their families, because that‘s certainly what happened in Pennsylvania.  And, surely, it must have happened again here.

And I say one thing with some hesitancy, because right now I certainly want to focus on this wonderful, wonderful development that‘s occurred tonight, but it does tell you—it does teach you some lessons about disasters in general, where officials know that, until they can confirm that deaths have occurred, that it‘s important they run it out to the last string and they don‘t call off the search and they keep these things going. 

And sometimes, from the outside, it looks almost futile, when they‘re battling hope against hope, but, boy, something comes along like this, and it sure does say to you, “My god, there‘s some sense to running these things out and to the very last moment, until you know that there‘s absolutely no more hope.”

What a wonderful, wonderful development.

COSBY:  It is.  And you‘re right.  So many times you see these guys doing these searches.  And you wonder, “Look, after you told us there‘s basically no chance, why do you do it?”  But, boy, this reinforces—and talk about miracles happening again here in West Virginia.

Bob Hager, stick with us.  I want to bring in Tom Costello, our NBC correspondent who was at the church where the good news came down.  Tom, what‘s the mood like there, huh?

TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, it is euphoria here, as now families have gathered, media have gathered, townspeople have gathered, all waiting to see these miners come out of the mine shaft.  We have many, many police officers, state troops, all kind of lining up.  And they have cleared the roads, because they say they have ambulances coming in to bring in the paramedics, who will then examine the miners.

So we don‘t yet know how long it‘s going to be until the miners get out.  But when they do, they‘re going to met by paramedics, ambulances on the scene here.  They will quickly do an evaluation.  And one presume they will bring them into the hospital, if they deem that they need to be looked over any further.

I would just point out that we have been told all along...

COSBY:  Tom, Tom, Tom...

COSTELLO:  ... that the conditions down underneath inside the mine...

COSBY:  Hey, Tom, Tom, do me a favor.  Stick with me.  Hold on one second.  I think we have the governor, just reacting real quick.  Let‘s play the tape here.  And let‘s listen in, if we could, to the audio.  Hold on one second, Tom.


GOV. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA:  ... we are still at fully in a rescue mode.  And we know that there‘s 12 miners in there that the blast did not affect.  And we know that they are together somewhere, and we‘re trying to find those 12 miners.  And it‘s still—I feel...


COSBY:  And we‘re waiting—actually, this was from earlier, we‘re told.  We‘re hoping that that was some latest reaction from the governor.  But no doubt that governor, Joe Manchin, who thought that there was just such a slight chance that these guys could be found alive, and kept saying we‘re praying for a miracle here, well, he got one tonight.  And I‘m sure we‘re going to hear from the governor in a few moments.  That was raw, unedited video that just came in.

Tom, sorry to interrupt you there at the church.  We thought we had some new video coming in.  Please continue, Tom.

COSTELLO:  Well, I was just saying that the conditions in the mine—you know, we talk about the fact that they‘ve been down there for 40 hours or so—is roughly, they have maintained all along, 55 degrees, 53 degrees, something like that, underneath the ground.

And let me just bring in quickly, as I‘m talking live here on MSNBC to a witness.

Sir, can I get your name?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Terry Gaul (ph).

COSTELLO:  And do you have a relative who‘s down below?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He‘s a good friend.  His name‘s Terry Helms.  And he‘s a real great friend of mine.

COSTELLO:  And Mr. Helms is the gentleman who perhaps did not make it.  Is that what we‘re hearing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, we‘d like to hope not, but we do know that we‘ve lost one miner up there.  And the family is pretty sure that it was Terry.  But we don‘t know.  And we‘re hoping for the best.

COSTELLO:  Well, we are, too.  And we certainly would pass on our best wishes.

Give me a sense of what your read is tonight.  This is just unbelievable news that the other 12, apparently, are alive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, that‘s 12 families that get to go home and enjoy a new year.  And you have one that‘s going to a better place and probably enjoy the rest of his eternity.

COSTELLO:  Had you tonight expected the worst for all 12 miners, the other 12 miners?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, yes, I did.  And I‘m sorry for that.  But, you know, it wasn‘t looking too good.  But I guess I kind of doubted my own faith, and I‘ll have to make amends for that.

COSTELLO:  What makes this town and this area so special?  You all really never really gave up hope.  We kept hearing from family members who said they‘re going to keep hope alive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, basically, because God‘s not dead here in the state of West Virginia—this is (INAUDIBLE) West Virginia—and if anybody deserves a miracle, it‘s here in West Virginia.

COSTELLO:  Well, you have one tonight.  Thank you, sir. 


COSTELLO:  A miracle on this new year of 2006.  Well, you might say the lucky 12 are coming out of the mine down below, but clearly they‘re so distraught over having lost one, as you well know, Rita.  But at this moment, they are all gathered here, waiting to welcome the other 12 above ground.

There is a fire burning here with hot chocolate.  They‘ve had the Red Cross here.  The Salvation Army personnel on the ground here have been feeding the emergency crews for the last two days.  You can imagine these miners might well like a cup of hot coffee when they get out of here.

COSBY:  Oh, you, boy—and they deserve that and then some.  You know, Tom, in terms of the governor, where is he?  Because I know he‘s been watching this case closely.  Who else is around there?

COSTELLO:  I‘ve not seen the governor.  He may be here.  He‘s been shoveling, as you well know, between the command center, the church, and then back up towards the media center.  It‘s about, oh, a mile or two triangle he‘s been performing for the last two days, trying to keep everybody in the loop.

The governor, Rita, as you well know, was saying emphatically there was no way he was going to let the bad news, if there was bad news, get to those families.  He wanted to be able to be the one to share the news with them himself.  He has held emphatically that he should be the one to make sure that if there are any rumors that he quashed them and he got the straight news to these families.  He had to deliver heartbreaking news earlier tonight that one of them didn‘t make it.

But then, great news, that 12 of them have apparently made it out alive and on their way out as we speak.

COSBY:  You know, Tom, we had a sister-in-law of one of the miners on a few minutes ago.  She was telling us this great story of how all the sudden some guy ran up to her, didn‘t know who he is, saying, “They‘re alive, they‘re alive, they‘re alive.”

How did the word spread from what you saw?

COSTELLO:  I have just arrived here and I‘m sorry, Rita, repeat your question.  I was talking to one of the staff members from the governor.

COSBY:  Yeah, just asking how did the word spread?  Did they seem that it was one cohesive announcement or - one of the sister-in-laws of one of the miners is telling us that all of the sudden she saw some strange guy run up, somebody she didn‘t know saying “They‘re alive, they‘re alive.”

Is there a sense of sort of how the word came around?

COSTELLO:  Yeah, I‘ve got to tell that‘s a bit premature right now.  It just spread like wildfire and if you could see the anticipation on all of these people‘s faces, it is just phenomenal as they stand here with nothing but bright smiles.  We said earlier on NBC NIGHTLY NEWS that the weather has just been awful.  It has been cold and rainy and drizzly and just absolutely awful and to some extent it really matched the mood of the people here today.

When they heard about the carbon monoxide levels, when they heard that they were three times the lethal level in the very area that they had drilled that hole down to check the levels, people just felt like this was just a no-win situation.  Candidly, the CEO of the company said, We need a miracle here.  We just think we‘re up against tremendous odds.

The same sentiment coming from the governor earlier today and they were just trying to be realistic and to try to get these folks‘ expectations in line with what just seemed to be so likely - the likely outcome and yet in fact they have met a miracle tonight on January 3rd, a miracle here and as I speak to you I am watching now, it looks like ambulances now starting to roll in here, coming in from the main town of just right around the corner and coming in here towards the greeting - the staging area.

COSBY:  And now we‘re looking at live pictures, everybody.  This is new video that just came in, some raw video of the family members.  You can see them hugging each other, just elated at the news.  Children and adults getting the word, just some tears of joy, you can tell, in that woman‘s face.

Tom, any sense - we‘re being told that the miners, the 12 lucky ones, as you describe them, appropriately, that they are actually coming over there and then after that they‘re going to be taken to the hospital just to get checked out, but have you gotten any word how long that could be?

COSTELLO:  I don‘t know, to be honest with you, but the ambulance is pulling up in front of me as we speak.  They clearly need more than one ambulance if they‘re going to check out all 12 and we‘ve been told to expect several ambulances.  They would then go into the town of Buckhannon, which is only about a 15-minute drive through kind of a long, winding back West Virginia road.

If you‘ve been on these roads you know that they can kind of wind around the hilly terrain, if you will, of West Virginia and this is coal mining country and so the people of Buckhannon, if you‘ve been through that town over the last couple of days, you know that they have put up on the marquees at the McDonalds, at some of the restaurants, pray for our miners, pray for their families, don‘t give up hope.

Clearly, this town did not give up hope and clearly tonight there is celebrating.

COSBY:  And Tom, if you could get back to us as soon as you get any new information, because we‘re going to continue this wall-to-wall.

We have with us on the phone Jeff Weaver.  He is a nephew of one of the miners.  Jeff Weaver, can you hear me?

Mr. Weaver, can you hear me?

JEFF WEAVER, NEPHEW OF MINER (on phone):  Yes, I can.

COSBY:  OK.  Forgive me.  Sorry.  We‘ve got a lot of things happening breaking here in my ear.  But Mr. Weaver, what great news.  How did you hear the news?

WEAVER:  Oh, they came to church screaming and hollering with the bells ringing, just saying that the 12 ...

COSBY:  Who told you?

WEAVER:  What was that?

COSBY:  Who told you?  How did you get the news?  Was it - who ran in?

WEAVER:  I‘m not really sure who he was.  There was just so many people in the church you really couldn‘t tell.  There‘s a lot of people jumping up, hooting and hollering at that time.  You really couldn‘t tell.

COSBY:  And what did they say when they announced - what did this gentlemen say?

WEAVER:  Just that the 12 miners had survived and they are bringing them up to the Sago Church.

COSBY:  What was your reaction and what did everybody else do?

WEAVER:  Everybody was really - everybody was very happy.  Filled with joy.  I mean, you just couldn‘t ask for nothing better than this.

COSBY:  Tell us about your uncle.

WEAVER:  What‘s that?

COSBY:  Tell us about your uncle.

WEAVER:  He‘s been a coal miner all his life, since he was 16 years old.  He‘s been in the mines for like 33 years.  He loves his job.

COSBY:  Why did he become a coal miner?

WEAVER:  I think he become a coal miner the same as everybody else.  There‘s not much in the State of West Virginia and coal mining is about the best think we‘ve got.

COSBY:  Was he ever worried about his job?

WEAVER:  Not that he ever let anybody know.

COSBY:  Were family members like you and others worried about something like this happening?

WEAVER:  I think everybody that has somebody working in the mines has something like this to worry about.

COSBY:  Are you stunned?  When I‘m sure you heard news that one body was found, that had to be just heartbreaking.

WEAVER:  Yes.  I think that was heartbreaking for everybody.

COSBY:  And were you worried at that point, Jeff, I‘m sure that the worst was yet to come.

WEAVER:  No, I‘ve never had a moment of doubt because these guys are very experienced in what they do.

COSBY:  So you kept the faith the whole time.  You believed this could happen.

WEAVER:  Yes, I do, because - I mean - miracles happen every day.

COSBY:  What helped you get through this, Jeff, you and the hundreds of other family members who have been just beautifully praying there at the church?  What helped you get through this tough time?

WEAVER:  I think everybody here just going together and the church, the church has really been great in what they‘ve done and Governor Joe Manchin, he‘s really did a good job on this.

COSBY:  What are you going to say to your uncle when hopefully you see him in a few minutes?

WEAVER:  Hopefully, hugging and telling him I hope he never goes back underground again.

COSBY:  Are we looking at some pictures of a lot of happy relatives?  What are the folks around you doing right now, Jeff?

WEAVER:  A lot of people is in the church.  Some people is out talking to the reporters.  Mostly everybody is just waiting on their family members.  They just want to see their loved ones come out ...

COSBY:  Have you gotten any indication when that‘s going to be?

WEAVER:  No, ma‘am, I have not.  Hopefully soon.

COSBY:  Absolutely.  Well, Jeff Weaver, we thank you so much, sir, and congratulations on this wonderful news that your uncle and 11 ...

WEAVER:  Thank you.

COSBY:  ... others, 12 in total, found alive.  Congratulations.  What great news.

Bob Hager, I‘m just telling you.  You and I have covered a lot of stories in the years and you much more than I, but this is one of those great, wonderful stories, huh?

HAGER:  Few stories that come along once in a lifetime, a reporter‘s lifetime, really, that result in a happen ending like this one certainly has promise of being.  We still would like to know that everybody is in fine condition.  Certainly that has been the indication so far, but sure would like to hear it officially.  Would like to see those miners as they come out.

But what a joyous night as you said.  Boy, I‘ve reported for NBC for 36 years and I can think of what other story that had a tremendous turnaround, unexpected ending like this and that was the last time miners were rescued three and a half years ago and certainly I just personally never expected it in this case, lightning, in effect, to strike twice with a miraculous ending like this but what a wonderful, wonderful development.

I might repeat for a moment where we last left off on the information of what we knew about what had gone on there.  And that even makes this, the final ending, that more wondrous because we had the bad news just a few hours earlier that one miner had been found dead.  And the situation there, they had located what they believed to be the point of the explosion about two miles back in the shaft of the mine and then they had found, beyond the point of the explosion, the body of the one miner and then 700 hundred feet beyond that, the cart that apparently had brought these men in and it looks like the miner who died had got off that cart and was working the coal belt.  That is belt that would carry produced coal, or coal that they had mined out later after they got it started and all.

So he had got off the cart, evidently, to be working that and it looks like he was killed by the explosion since he was the closest one to it.

Then 700 feet away, as they say, they had located the abandoned little railroad car that brings the men in but no sign, on our last information briefing, seen of the men around that cart.  And so then they had said they were mystified, they wondered what happened to them or were they already off the cart when the explosion occurred or working in some more remote tunnel of the mine or had they got out of the cart when the explosion occurred and the fact that that cart was 700 feet away from where the dead miner was that they were able somehow to get out of the cart and start to make their way out of the mine but they couldn‘t figure out why the rescuers hadn‘t encountered them as they came up the mine shaft, as they tried to make their way out of the mine.

So all of these details will be filled in but of course the details still pale behind the general headline of 12 miners found alive, a tragedy that one died, but certainly a wonderful, wonderful development that 12 others lived through this awful ordeal.

COSBY:  Now it‘s incredible and everybody home, and if you‘re looking at the video here, we apologize, it‘s a little raw and it‘s very raw, in fact, because we just got it in, but we wanted to bring it to you immediately.  These are the first pictures, of course, as soon as family members got word that 12 of their loved ones, 12 of the miners who were trapped in there, as you just heard from Bob, they were two miles in, 11,000 miles (sic) in.  And we were also told that that one body was found a couple of hours ago and when that word came down, everybody here was just so disenchanted.

You know, Bob, when the word came down about that one particular - the body and again, we were hearing a little bit ago that‘s it‘s probably Mr. Terry Helms who died in there and I‘m sure his family, it‘s just devastating for them.  When that word came down, it certainly looked ominous, right?

HAGER:  Absolutely.  And initially as some people describe it, second and third-hands witnesses from a little church up there where the witnesses are gathered, when the news came they weren‘t immediately sure up there who it was so there were all these relatives around hearing that one body has been found and no one knowing is it their relative.  And the descriptions again which were not the firsthand descriptions but as told to others or that there was a chorus, as you can imagine, a very emotional reaction inside the church with weeping and an outcry of emotion and just desperation here because people really, one can imagine that although they continued to hope and pray, that they had certainly seen, or been led to believe that - they all - the outlook looked so grim and all that they must have steeled themselves or at least been expecting some of the worst news so when they heard this one miner was dead that caused this outpouring of grief in the church and that makes all the more poignant this dramatic turnaround of the other 12 men.

COSBY:  Absolutely.  Bob, stick with us.  We‘ve got with us Eddie Hamner, who is at the church as we‘re looking at some of these live pictures - rather, pictures that were just sent into us of the latest video.  This is video that just came in.  Again, we apologize, it‘s raw, the camera is moving back and forth, focusing, as you can see, but we want to get these pictures to you immediately because of the hugs that you see there, the great news that came in, the miracle in West Virginia that I bet it‘s going to be called, 12 miners, word just coming down in the last few minutes have been found alive.

Let‘s bring in, if we could, Eddie Hamner, if you‘re with me on the phone, a cousin of one of the miners.  Eddie, can you hear me?

EDDIE HAMNER, COUSIN OF MINER:  Yes, I can hear you.

COSBY:  Eddy, what‘s your reaction, first of all?  How did you find out?

HAMNER:  Well, I found out the church bells were ringing when I pulled in and I asked a gentleman why the bells were ringing.  He said they found 12 miners and they were all alive.  It was - my fiancee and I, we just embraced each other and it was a good feeling.

COSBY:  What are the families doing now?

HAMNER:  Most of the families are gathered at the church, waiting on the arrival of the miners.

COSBY:  And what are you going to say to your relative when you see him?  Who‘s your relative?

HAMNER:  His name is Junior Hamner.  I‘m just - I‘m going to say, I don‘t know what I am going to say, really.  Happy to see him and I don‘t really know.  Just too excited to say anything.

COSBY:  How stunned were you when you got the news, when you heard this news.  Were you shocked like the rest of us?

HAMNER:  I wasn‘t really shocked but I was surprised and I was just so happy that everything worked out OK.  I know everyone around here had been really concerned and we‘d all been sending prayers out and we‘re just glad our prayers were answered.

COSBY:  Boy, were they answered, huh?  What kind of hugs and cheers are going on around you?  What a great moment, huh?

HAMNER:  Yes.  It‘s really just a wonderful moment and there was a miracle here.

COSBY:  What helped you get through this?  I tell you, I‘ve been so impressed, I‘ve been talking to a lot of the family members there and what do you think helped you get through this Eddy?  I mean, it‘s been 40 hours, the odds were so slim.

HAMNER:  Well my fiancee, she provided me with support and she was just there for me and everything and I said some prayers and just kept hope that everything would be OK.

COSBY:  Have you gotten any word when they‘re going to be coming to you, Eddie, when the relatives are going to be there?

HAMNER:  No, we haven‘t really received any word yet but we‘re expecting their arrival any time.

COSBY:  Well, give Junior a big hug from all of us and congratulations, Eddie, this is such terrific news and we‘re so happy for you and you family.

HAMNER:  Thank you very much.

COSBY:  Thank you, and let‘s bring in if we could Ron Allen, NBC News correspondent who was with me when the news broke and who is now down at the church.  Ron, what is the mood there?

RON ALLEN, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, it‘s jubilation, it‘s anticipation, it‘s shock, it‘s relief, it‘s an incredible feeling of just satisfaction and hope.  It‘s really hard to put it into words as you walk through the crowd there, people are just overjoyed at this news that has happened.

They‘re waiting now to see what happens next.  There are rumors flying around that the miners might actually be coming back from the search.  There are rumors and suggestions that they‘ll probably go to the hospital so I would imagine it‘s probably in order.  These men have been under ground since some time around 6:00 a.m. yesterday morning.  They obviously need some kind of medical check to make sure they‘re OK.

Here, the people have been standing on what‘s essentially a muddy field outside this huge church that‘s been lit all day.  There are probably as many as two or 300 people here from the community.  There are cars parked all over the place, it‘s been essentially a vigil that‘s been going on since word of the accident, the explosion, happened.  People have been gathering here, bringing food, bringing - there are clergy people from the surrounding communities who are also here offering prayers and fate signs, get this community through what‘s been just an incredible ordeal.

One miner, of course, we know did not survive and I spoke with a relative of that man early and she was resolute and she was more happy that others had survived and trying to focus on the positive.  Since I‘ve been here I‘ve just been impressed by how focused everyone is and trying to stay positive and how they‘ve been relying on their faith and how the governor, leading the way, has been saying how they‘re just hoping for a miracle here and the miracle has apparently happened.

There was no indication that this was going to happen this way.  Everything we‘ve been hearing through the afternoon, into the evening, was that the odds was against them, that the air quality in the mine was terrible.  That the conditions were hard for the rescue workers to work in.

But then suddenly, all of the sudden, without explanation, we‘re being told that all 12 survived and we hope and expect to see them fairly soon.

COSBY:  The word is it sounds like we‘re hearing the same thing, Ron, that they are probably coming to where you are, which is a good indication that they are not in horrible health because you would think if that‘s the case, they would be rushed to the hospital.  This is really an incredible story.

In all the news stories you‘ve covered, how stunning is this?

ALLEN:  It‘s quite stunning and it‘s good news.  You don‘t cover a lot of good news all the time.  This is phenomenal.

As to the condition of the miners, who knows?  I have to imagine that being underground for that long with very few provisions, it‘s unclear exactly how much food or water they had with them but obviously enough to sustain them for this lengthy period of time, from 6:00 yesterday morning.

There‘s a very narrow road that leads, a mountain road that leads to the entrance to the mine.  Right now it‘s packed with cars and the police are trying to direct just the flood of traffic that keeps descending on this area.  There are ambulances as well.  There are emergency vehicles with lights flashing trying to get over to the mine.  It‘s unclear, at this moment, whether the miners have been brought to the surface or whether they are still below ground.

We‘re expecting to get something of a briefing, but at this point, this is a fast-moving and rapidly changing situation that they‘re trying to focus on getting these men rescued into safety and they‘re telling us what‘s going on bit by bit.  The families are just, as you can imagine, just euphoric.  A few hours ago, the governor came out and some Red Cross workers came out and described the situation inside the church after a miner had been found dead.

People were fainting, people were passing out.  People were walking out of the church down this hall, down this muddy road just devastated and shocked and then within a short period of time, the complete opposite, euphoria, it‘s an amazing thing and I, for one, I am - everybody, I imagine, is just - how did they do it?  How could you do it?  How did they survive?  These are men who have a lot of experience.  Some of them as many as 30 years in this business and that‘s what they‘ve been saying to us all along.

These people know how to take care of themselves.  If anybody was going to survive, they would have the wits and the skill and the know-how and the resolve to do it.  And through all this time there has been no communication, no sound from them below, which of course in these situations is the first thing you hope to hear.  Some sound, some indication that the miners are alive or at least can indicate where they are in this maze of tunnels below ground.

We have been told that at one point about 85 percent of the area they wanted to search had been canvassed and the odds were just not falling in the favor of survival but the odds were just completely wrong and this is an incredible night out here, Rita.

COSBY:  It is and you know, Ron, we‘re just getting word that one of our producers there on the ground is saying that in about 45 minutes the lucky 12, as Tom Costello, I think appropriately was calling them, are going to be coming over to your direction, to the church we‘re hearing that maybe as early as 45 minutes, maybe even sooner.  The lucky 12, those 12 miners who miraculously survived are going to be reunited with their euphoric family members.

You know, Ron, we were just showing a little live picture before of the news conference, because we are now awaiting word, we should be getting a news conference, hopefully, any moment there.

We‘ve got an empty room, as you can see, live, the microphones on the stand because any moment now we are hoping to hear from the governor, also the International Coal Group, that‘s the group that purchased this mine last year.  Those guys have been extremely emotional as well as the governor throughout this entire ordeal.  You could tell that this was very personal to them when the word came down that one body was found, they were just devastated.

The governor very devastated, very emotional, also the head of the International Coal Group, Mr. Hatfield, was also visibly moved in saying it‘s never easy when you lose one miner and we‘re praying for a miracle, and boy, did a miracle happen.

Ron, have you gotten any details at all as to where these miners, exactly, were, or anything about their condition at all?

ALLEN:  No.  Not as of yet and as to their position or how they were able to survive this in the mine, no, we only know from earlier that the tram, or buggy, as it‘s been called, the device that they use to get into the mine was found undamaged was the first positive sign several hours ago that there was hope and that‘s the way it‘s turned out.

As to the owners of the mine, they‘re going to be greatly relieved and we hope to hear from all the principals soon.

COSBY:  Well, do us a favor, I am trying to get us some family members with you.  We love to hear their responses.  We‘ve gotten a few of them and as you appropriately said, they are euphoric, they are excited, and Ron, we‘ll get back to you in a few minutes.

Let‘s bring in, if we could, Bruce Dial, who is a mine safety expert.  Bruce, we spoke earlier in the day.  It looked like the chances were so grim.  Are you just stunned at this miraculous discovery of the 12 miners.

BRUCE DIAL, MINE SAFETY EXPERT:  Yes, I am.  The chances were getting slimmer and slimmer and praise the Lord, they did find alive.  It looks like Christmas came twice within two weeks this year.

COSBY:  What do you think happened?  Again, it‘s so early.  We haven‘t gotten any details yet as to exactly where they were.  We know that they were looking in that area.  Eleven thousand feet in.  About 200 plus feet down.

But a very detailed area, that‘s where they found that one body and then they were going to continue searching a little bit beyond that.  What do you think happened to them?  How do you think they made it?

DIAL:  I think they were able to use their training that they had received and the instruments that they had to find a pocket of air, whether ventilation is still moving and they were able to get oxygen and the air was able to remove the bad gases and barricaded themselves and just relied on their training.

COSBY:  You know, Bruce, we didn‘t hear anything from them.  No sign of communication.  They sent down a number of drills.  Is there a reason, you think, why we didn‘t hear - they‘re trained, as we were hearing from miners earlier, you sort of hit on the side of the wall every 15 minutes.  There are 12 of those guys in there yet we heard no sign of communication from them.

DIAL:  Well, the first hole that went in was quite a distance from them and they might not have heard it.  The other two holes never went all the way through so they might not have heard them either.

After that period of time, the banging on the wall every 15 minutes becomes tiresome and they just top doing it.  But ...

COSBY:  Well the great news is tonight, Bruce.  Are you just shocked at the news?  I mean, this is just incredible.  In all the times you‘ve been covering mining, this is one of those amazing stories.

DIAL:  Yes it is.  It‘s a very amazing story and we have the praise the Lord for that and also the training and the tenacity of these miners.

COSBY:  You bet.  And I cannot wait to hear their story.  Bruce Dial, thank you.  Mine safety expert.  We appreciate you being with us on this night and what an incredible, emotional night it‘s been.  But no more so that for these family members who thought at one point and as many of us did that the chances were so remote, so slim and now word coming down just a few minutes ago that 12 of their loved ones are alive.

Let‘s bring in, if we could, let‘s go back to Tom Costello who is out at the church as we‘re looking at some of the raw video, Tom, I just want to describe for our viewers, we‘re looking at some video, again, this is raw video coming in.  We apologize for the jumps but we want to bring it to you.  This is right after they got word that their loved ones were alive.

You can tell that people were shocked, gleeful, stunned.  What are you hearing out there now, Tom?

COSTELLO:  Yeah, absolute elation here on the ground.  I am standing about probably 200 yards from the church where the families continue to gather and where there is just absolutely jubilation and next to the mobile command post for the State of West Virginia, where just a moment ago the governor‘s press secretary, Tom Hunter, said that in fact they have not yet formally, the governor‘s office has not yet formally made a comment about whether all 12 are alive.

We are getting this, of course, from other sources, including the families who say that they have been told that but the governor‘s office is saying, hang on, slow down, we need a little time to process all of that.  We are right now bringing the miners out, was the exact wording, and assessing their condition.

I think they are just trying to be very careful and they are very sensitive to the needs of at least one family who, of course, is going to be losing a loved one here.  We know that one of the miners did not make it and they are very concerned about that family and those feelings of that family.

We have also witnessed, at this point, probably eight to 10 ambulances move into the mine itself, down the long, steep road into the mine itself, to stand by with paramedics and EMTs to then take these miners, we are told, to local hospitals for evaluation.

One might assume that if they were exposed to carbon monoxide in any fashion over the last day or two, they probably want to do a thorough blood analysis, perhaps put them on oxygen, and of course, you‘re also concerned about whether there‘s any dehydration or anything of that sort.

But as I was saying about a few minutes ago, they have told us all along, the condition of the mine down there, 55 degrees.  So it‘s not as if they have been tremendously cold down there, as long as they had on their normal wear, one assumes that they should have been, they should have been fine in terms of the temperature.


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