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Letters to the Living

by triplems
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Letters to the Living

Randal McCloy Jr., the lone survivor of the Sago Mine disaster, wrote this letter to the families of the 12 miners who died in the Jan. 2 explosion. In the letter, he refers to a “man-trip,” which transports miners into mines; “rescuers,” which are emergency air packs; and a “rib,” which is the wall of the mine.To the families and loved ones of my co-workers, victims of the Sago Mine disaster:About three weeks before the explosion that occurred on January 2, 2006, toward the end of our shift, Junior Toler and I found a gas pocket while drilling a bolt hole in the mine roof. Our detector confirmed the presence of methane. We immediately shut down the roof bolter, and the incident was reported up the line to our superiors. I noticed the following day that the gas leak had been plugged with glue normally used to secure the bolts.The explosion happened soon after the day shift arrived at the mine face on January 2, right after we got out of the man-trip. I do not recall whether I had started work, nor do I have any memory of the blast. I do remember that the mine filled quickly with fumes and thick smoke and that breathing conditions were nearly unbearable.The first thing we did was activate our rescuers, as we had been trained. At least four of the rescuers did not function. I shared my rescuer with Jerry Groves, while Junior Toler, Jesse Jones and Tom Anderson sought help from others. There were not enough rescuers to go around.We then tried to return to the man-trip, yelling to communicate through the thick smoke. The air was so bad that we had to abandon our escape attempt and return to the coal rib, where we hung a curtain to try to protect ourselves. The curtain created an enclosed area of about 35 feet.We attempted to signal our location to the surface by beating on the mine bolts and plates. We found a sledgehammer, and for a long time we took turns pounding away. We had to take off the rescuers in order to hammer as hard as we could. This effort caused us to breathe much harder. We never heard a responsive blast or shot from the surface.We eventually gave out and quit our attempts at signaling, sitting down behind the curtain on the mine floor, or on buckets or cans that some of us found. The air behind the curtain grew worse, so I tried to lie as low as possible and take shallow breaths. While methane does not have an odor like propane and is considered undetectable, I could tell that it was gassy. We all stayed together behind the curtain from that point on, except for one attempt by Junior Toler and Tom Anderson to find a way out. The heavy smoke and fumes caused them to quickly return. There was just so much gas.We were worried and afraid, but we began to accept our fate. Junior Toler led us all in the Sinners Prayer. We prayed a little longer, then someone suggested that we each write letters to our loved ones. I wrote a letter to Anna and my children. When I finished writing, I put the letter in Jackie Weaver’s lunch box, where I hoped it would be found.As time went on, I became very dizzy and lightheaded. Some drifted off into what appeared to be a deep sleep, and one person sitting near me collapsed and fell off his bucket, not moving. It was clear that there was nothing I could do to help him. The last person I remember speaking to was Jackie Weaver, who reassured me that if it was our time to go, then God’s will would be fulfilled. As my trapped co-workers lost consciousness one by one, the room grew still and I continued to sit and wait, unable to do much else. I have no idea how much time went by before I also passed out from the gas and smoke, awaiting rescue.I cannot begin to express my sorrow for my lost friends and my sympathy for those they left behind. I cannot explain why I was spared while the others perished. I hope that my words will offer some solace to the miners’ families and friends who have endured what no one should ever have to endure.April 26, 2006Randal McCloy Jr.

OpinionsThis letter was really great. I seriously don't know how to express my feelings for Randal McCloy Jr.'s letter in words, but here goes. First of all I just want to say how wrong the Sago mine managers are for securing a gas pocket with glue that they would usually use for securing bolts. That action right there is just saying "Oh, I need to save money and that is definitely more important than miners lives!" I hate when people who are "superior" do that. Maybe not as extreme as killing you but like doing something bad. I was just horrified and mad and just so p.o'd that that happened! The next comment I would like to put in was how horribly dreadful it would have been to go through what McCloy and the other miners had to go through. Watching your friends die when you can't do anything about it. It wasprobably like H.E double hockey sticks! Almost all of the day shift miner's lives were taken because of a mistake, that just not be right! Before I learned about the Sago mine tragedy and read this letter I didn't really know anything about mining. I didn't now how dangerous it is. Every day Miner's are putting there lves into jeopardy just by going down that mine shaft. It is just nerve-racking, petrifying, and just plain SCARY! I feel so incredibly bad for any miner that life was destroyed because of coal mining. I am just so mad and fired up a bout it! it just stinks and I really can't even say how horrible it is without actually experiencing working in a mine and then have your life threatened by deadly gas and just watching my friends die off one by one by one. It is just horrible! I do wonder though if McCloy had any kind of psychological brain damage because of what he saw and his experiences. I know I would just not be the same person AT ALL if that happened to me.

This is a letter written by Junior Toler who McCloy watched die in the Sago mine tragedy. It says "Tell all I'll see them on the other side. It was not bad I just went to sleep. I love you"


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