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Upper Big Branch Mine tragedy brings reflections


The Register-Herald

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — On the seventh anniversary of the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion that took the lives of 29 coal miners, lawmakers reflected on the tragic day.

Shereen Atkins, from Racine, and mother of Jason Atkins who was killed in the Upper Big Branch Mine Explosion on on April 5, 2010, rests in front of flowers she brought to leave at the UBB Memorial in Whitesville on Wednesday.
(Photo by Brad Davis)

“Today our hearts are heavy with the sad memory of the tragic Upper Big Branch Mine Disaster,” said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., in a release. “Seven years ago, 29 brave West Virginia miners went to work and never returned home to their loved ones. In the aftermath of that horrible day, through moments of hope and despair, all West Virginians and the nation grieved with the miners’ families.”

Manchin continued, “On this sad anniversary, we are reminded that no family or community should ever endure a preventable tragedy like the one at Upper Big Branch again. It is critical that we continue to improve our safety standards so that our miners’ lives are never in jeopardy and I remain absolutely and totally committed to the health and safety of every worker.”

He added, “Every man or woman who goes to work in the morning should go with the knowledge that they will return home safely to their families at the end of the day. Gayle and I join all West Virginians in grieving the loss of our miners and honoring those miners’ memories as we pray for the continued strength for their families.”

Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., said he paused April 5 to remember and honor the fathers, sons, brothers and friends lost seven years ago.

“Every mining family prays for their loved one to come home at the end of each shift, and we pray for peace and strength for these 29 families,” Jenkins said. “We must do all we can to ensure the safety of each and every miner, and we will never forget those we lost on this sad day.”

There were no formal remembrances held. Wreaths were placed at memorials at the Raleigh County Courthouse and the UBB Memorial in Whitesville.

Sheila Combs, president and founder of the Upper Big Branch Memorial, told MetroNews that was by design.

“The whole purpose of the memorial plaza is to be there year-round and give people a place to go year-round,” she said. “We don’t plan anything in particular on the day of the memorial. We just hope people take advantage of it whenever they can and stop by.”

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