Families Hold Faith in God, Amid Mining Tragedy

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MONTCOAL, W.Va. -- People in the small West Virginia mining town of Montcoal have come together to support each other after Monday's massive mine explosion.

Despite the tragedy, they are putting their faith in God.

Residents Hold Prayer Vigils

Residents gathered Tuesday at prayer vigils throughout the Montcoal area, praying and waiting for word on the fate of their loved ones and friends.

"We got lucky. It's by the grace of God that my husband wasn't there," said Miranda Clemons, wife of John Clemons, a coal miner. "It didn't happen on his shift and that's the only reason. That he wasn't the one laying in their missing."

Homer Hickam, a former coal miner and author of the book Rocket Boys that inspired the movie "October Sky," appeared on CBN's Newswatch program Tuesday, April 5. Click here for more from him on the safety conditions at the Massey mine and how the community bands together during tragedies like this.

"(I'm) just relieved, but also sorry because I knew all those guys that got hurt," John said.

Prayer signs are everywhere in the small knit community that is still in shock after losing so many fathers, sons and brothers. Although many questions still remain, right now, they are holding on to hope and each other.

"We know that we have 18 people in that mine, 14 have perished, because of the explosion," said Gov. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va. "Very hopeful there might be a miracle. We know the odds are long against us, but there's that little thread of hope."

Rescue efforts were called off because of dangerous levels of methane. Several holes are being drilled near where the missing miners may be in order to ventilate the gas and allow rescuers to go in. But the drilling operation won't be completed until sometime Wednesday.

Manchin says West Virginians share a special bond in times of crisis.

"Between our faith, the Love of our Lord, and how we believe, it brings us together and really, there's no way to get through it," Manchin said. "I had a lady this morning and had to inform her that 3 members of her family had died. She lost her oldest son, and 2 of her grandsons. If you don't have faith to get through that and you don't understand that there's a master planner I don't know what you can do."

Miner: Benefits Worth the Risk

The explosion at Massey's Upper Big Branch coal mine was one of the worst in U.S. history. The company is routinely hit with safety violations - including violations for poor ventilation of methane, a probable cause of Monday's explosion. But local miners say the benefits of mining still outweigh the risks.

When asked if the mine was safe Groves replied, "There's no such thing as a safe coal mine. That's an inherent danger."

Still, Groves says the risk is work it "to provide for my family."

Although, he and his brother Charles lost their cousin in Monday's blast, they are not blaming the coal company.

"Lot of things could have been done to prevent it, accidents happen, it's just the nature of the beast," Charles said.

Meanwhile, lawmakers on Capitol Hill plan to investigate the deadliest mine disaster in more than 20 years.

Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W. Va. told CBN News he is at a loss as to what caused the tragedy.

"That's why there will be major investigations, federal, state all the appropriate agencies will do their job here," he said. "I, today, secured congressional hearing on this. We will try to follow every lead we can and try to find out what happened so we can try to prevent it from happening again."

Meanwhile, residents continue to pray.

"Oh my goodness,that's all we have is prayer," said Ina Williams of New Life Assembly Church. "We trust in God to keep his hand upon them. We can't get to our miners but He knows where they're at. We just put our trust in Him that He'll take care of them." 

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CBN News
Wendy Griffith

Wendy Griffith

CBN News Anchor/Reporter

Wendy Griffith is a Co-host for the The 700 Club and an Anchor and Senior Reporter for the Christian Broadcasting Network based in Virginia Beach, Virginia. In addition to The 700 Club, she co-anchors Christian World News, a weekly show that focuses on the triumphs and challenges of the global church. Follow Wendy on Twitter @WendygCBN and "like" her at Facebook.com/WendyGriffithCBN.