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Annual memorial service honors perished miners

Times West Virginian photo by Angelee Wiley Cecil Roberts (left) and Daniel Kane (right) place a wreath in front of the memorial to recognize the 78 men who lost their lives during the Farmington No. 9 mine disaster in 1968.
Times West Virginian photo by Angelee Wiley
Cecil Roberts (left) and Daniel Kane (right) place a wreath in front of the memorial to recognize the 78 men who lost their lives during the Farmington No. 9 mine disaster in 1968.

FARMINGTON, W.Va. — At about 5:30 a.m. on Nov. 20, 1968, the lives of 78 families changed forever. Seventy-eight men sacrificed everything, during the explosion at the Farmington No. 9 mine.

On Sunday, the community gathered together as a part of the 46-year anniversary since the disaster occurred.

Sharon Clelland has been attending these memorial services for 25 years. For the past seven, she has sung the national anthem and “Amazing Grace.”

Clelland’s beautiful voice resonated through the hills of Farmington as she sang from her soul. But this ceremony means much more to her than that.

Clelland lost her father when she was just 5 years old. He was a coal miner and unfortunately lost his life during the explosion.

Clelland returns to the memorial each year to honor the man that she loves so much.

“It means a lot. It’s his memory, is what I come back for. It’s what he sacrificed to get the Mine and Safety Act into place that makes it safe for my son who works in the coal mines,” said Clelland.

Clelland recalled all of those years of being a kid and missing her father. There are moments in her life where she would give anything just to have him by her side.

“(It was) extremely hard. I’d go to my friends’ homes and they had their dad. They go and do things. They had their weddings. They had their father walk them down the aisle in the wedding,” said Clelland. “When you don’t have a father, you miss out on a lot.”

Today, Clelland’s son is now a coal miner…

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