Video: Miracle mining rescue revisited

By Bob Faw Correspondent
NBC News
updated 1/6/2006 7:34:50 PM ET 2006-01-07T00:34:50

Three-and-a-half years ago, the media descended here and lavished attention on nine trapped miners. They rejoiced when they were rescued, then moved on to the next crisis.

Since then, this community has also tried to move on.

"Oh, it's not over by a long shot," says local businessman John Rhoads. "No, it's brought up every day and every day."

Since then, the coal industry has boomed, but Somerset County hasn't. The unemployment rate and the population are both stagnant.

"Anyone who was involved in that rescue will tell you we share a very special bond," says Bill Arnold with the Quecreek Mine Rescue Foundation.

In these parts, coal mining is still one of the best jobs around. Last year, a miner here made about $40,000 a year — almost double the per capita income in the county.

But in this tough-minded, no-nonsense place — dotted with double-wide trailers, some sealed in plastic — when the rescued miners accepted $150,000 apiece to make a movie, there was resentment and bitterness, which lingers.

"There's some scars," says Mark Zambanini, who was fire chief back then. "Probably some of them will stay forever. It's too bad it has to be that way, but that's the way it is."

The ordeal is now commemorated in a local diner — a source of pride, and pain.

"I don't think it'll ever be over," says diner owner Betty Ann Rhoads.

What happened here will no doubt also happen at the Sago mine in W.Va. The media will, again, move on — leaving behind those affected most, who try to continue — even honor — what most of us tend to forget.

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