Anniversary of deadly Sago blast a quiet one

Mine Explosion Anniversary
Two coal workers in Sago, W. Va., gather at the Sago miners memorial at 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday. That was about the time of the explosion that was to claim 12 lives.Jeff Gentner / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

All was quiet at the Sago Baptist Church on Tuesday morning, the one-year anniversary of a coal mine explosion that killed 12 men.

Church member Jo Linger and her husband, Ron, opened the church and set up a table with coffee, doughnuts and cookies just in case family members of the victims stopped by.

Jo Linger went to the church last year to open it to the community after receiving a call that there had been an accident at the Upshur County mine.

"The church was full before we knew it," she said Tuesday.

Ron Linger estimates that as many as 1,000 people crammed in and around the small white church following the explosion.

Since the disaster, the church has received gifts and well wishes from people across the country. The church walls are adorned with wreaths, plaques, even a coal miners' quilt featuring the names of the victims. Other gifts including a painting of a miner reading a Bible and a nearly 2-foot tall lighthouse with the names of the victims on the side.

Sympathy cards for victims' family members also are displayed throughout the church along with blankets and other items.

The anniversary brings back memories for Joe Linger of the night the miners' bodies were found and the moment the family members heard the false report that all the miners except one had survived.

"We were so happy. We were just ecstatic," she said.

A man she never met before walked up to her, "grabbed me and we embraced and we cried. Then after we found out the men had died, the same gentlemen walked over and found me and we hugged again and we cried again. We were on such a high, then such a low, the lowest low. It was devastating."

Outside the church a few hundred away, sits a black granite memorial.

At 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, about the time the explosion occurred last year, two International Coal Group employees stopped to remember their colleagues. One of the men, who declined to give his name, lit a candle.

Just up the road, work continued at the mine.

Lisa Deatherage, owner of The Daily Grind coffee shop in Buckhannon, says the accident was painful for the people there.

"It's a tragedy, but it's really brought the community together," she said.