Hundreds came to an interfaith service Sunday in the heart of Utah’s coal country to say a public goodbye to six miners who were entombed in a mine after an earthshaking collapse.
Gov. Jon Huntsman said he hoped the memorial service would allow the families, who spent almost a month hoping the rescue efforts would turn up some sign of the missing men, to begin the process of healing.
“There has been pain, discomfort and loss. These were real human beings who loved and were loved by others,” Huntsman told the audience. “Our community and our state have been hurting. It is a time for healing and a time for closure.”
About 1,000 people attended the ceremony on the football field of a junior high school, and family and close friends of the missing miners were seated in front of the podium.
Kerry Allred, Don Erickson, Luis Hernandez, Carlos Payan, Brandon Phillips and Manuel Sanchez were working more than 1,500 feet underground in the early morning hours of Aug. 6 when there was a collapse so powerful it registered at 3.9 magnitude.
For nearly four weeks, crews from Cleveland-based Murray Energy Corp., a co-owner of the mine, searched for the miners. Holes were drilled through the mountain into the mine and cameras lowered in search of signs of life.
Each time the drill broke through the roof of the mine, there were hours of silence, while people on top of the mountain banged on the drill steel, hoping the miners would respond in kind and signal their location. After a second collapse killed three rescue workers Aug. 16, the underground rescue effort was deemed too dangerous and halted.
With no sign of life, the search was officially called off on Aug. 31.
U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson told the crowd Sunday he was still hopeful that someday the bodies could be recovered.
“We can not bring them back, but we can at least bring them home,” Matheson said.