Skip to main content

George was tired even before he got up to work the second shift.   He grabbed his metal lunch bucket, kissed 3 year old Vivian on her chubby cheek and then a quick kiss to his wife, Rosie before heading out.  He, Rosie and Vivian lived in the home where Rosie's and Mary Lou's mom and dad lived before they died 10 years ago.  Mary still lived with them and worked at the Woolworth downtown.  Both girls were orphaned when they were 14 & 16.  First Anna died from complications from an ulcer in 1940, then their dad, John, died in a mine cave in only 3 months later.  George knew how scarey and awful that death would be.  George worked in the mines also.  He couldn't imagine to be buried alive until the rock filled your mouth and nostrils blocking out hope of coming outta that mine alive.  George looked at Vivian with her mother's face and his dark curly hair and smiled.

The four of them were a family.  Thank God, he had a good job at the mine.

About 7:40 pm, the explosion came.  119 men killed.  130 men did escape from the Orient number 2 mine located between Benton and West Frankfort in Southern Illinois.  It was 4 days before Christmas.

There was a basketball game in town that night.  The superintendent got a message from the police chief to quietly come to the junior high gymnasium and open it for a temporary morgue.  Soon to follow, the doctors and nurses in attendance at the game began to leave.  Everyone in those small towns knew who the doctors were.  It was a small town and high school basketball was the event everyone was at on a Friday night.

Before long word got out and people knew about the tragedy at the No. 2 mine.

"Then there came the awfulest sound ... a roar like a cyclone, like a windstorm. It blew a big door open and closed it right back. Then came the smoke," he said. "The lights went out and it went pitch black. We got nervous because we knew something real bad had happened."

Able to communicate with those above ground by using crank phones placed "ever so often on the wall," Summers and the other men in his crew learned there had been a devastating explosion and were told to get out of the mine as quickly as they could.

Summers and the crew began a frightening two-hour climb out of the black depths of the mine, gathering up other miners along the way.

"It was pitch black down there and all we had was our bug lights. My job was to get us to air. We'd check each door and there'd be smoke or fire or a sulphur smell in the air. Then we'd call and they'd tell us where to go from there. We stayed bunched together and did a lot of squirming. It took us quite a while but it was the only way we could get out," he said. "There was two or three bodies we passed, guys who'd been killed, but we got out with about 23 people."

Read more: http://thesouthern.com/...

Its been so long since this happened, but today on facebook, so many grandkids of those families remembered (and they weren't even born yet).  I wasn't born yet either, but I learned this story from when I was very little.  I never knew Uncle George.  Tragedy strikes and it isn't fair.  But for those families who were affected, it hasn't been forgotten.

Photobucket

United Mine Workers of America Archive UMWA President John L. Lewis emerging from the Orient No. 2 mine in West Frankfort after viewing the devastation the mine explosion that killed 119 miners on Dec. 21, 1951.

Read more: http://thesouthern.com/...

more pictures from the story link

Originally posted to effervescent on Wed Dec 21, 2011 at 12:51 PM PST.

Also republished by History for Kossacks and Community Spotlight.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site