The Quecreek Mine Disaster
by Lionel E. Deimel
The Pittsburgh Seam ran out to Somerset,
And mining coal was long a practice there;
The Quecreek mine was but the latest hole
Where Pennsylvanians laid the black rock bare.
The team of nine was working Wednesday night—
A practiced group with decades underground;
Unwittingly, they cut into a wall,
Where water-filled, abandoned halls they found.
On maps, the Saxman mine was not too close—
The maps, through guile or carelessness, had lied;
One miner ran and found the telephone;
“Get out!” to miners far away, he cried.
The passage out led down, then up again,
So men and water shared a swift descent;
But water won the frenzied downward race,
And men knew what the flooded chamber meant.
No longer was escape a goal to seek,
For life itself became their only thought;
To higher ground they crawled back up in pain;
Against cascading flood they bravely fought.
They tied themselves together with a rope,
And so would live or perish as a team;
If dying was their lot this summer’s day,
They'd find their rest together in that seam.
At last, they reached a summit in the mine,
Whose ceiling, from the waters, was not wet;
Their pangs of terror turned to thoughts of death,
Unmindful of events in Somerset.
The miners’ plight, of course, was known above
By townsfolk yielding not to dark despair;
They guessed where savvy miners had to go
And drilled to send compressed and heated air.
The rescue plan was not a simple one—
They could not let the mine with water fill,
So pumps would have a crucial role to play,
And, too, a summoned West Virginia drill.
On Thursday morn, the six-inch bit broke through,
Below the ground two hundred forty feet,
And banging on the pipe soon made it clear:
There was a deep-mine rescue to complete!
On Thursday afternoon, the big rig came
To drill a shaft a rescue cage could thread;
That job would take a half a day or more
To reach the barely living or the dead.
The miners’ many loved ones all about
Were gathered up in Sipesville’s fire hall
To comfort one another, weep, and hope,
And steel themselves, whatever might befall.
The world’s attention now was on that mine—
Reporters pressed for facts that they could share;
The governor was ready to oblige
With information, confidence, and prayer.
The rescue hole was started Thursday night,
But trouble struck it well before the dawn;
The bit had gone one hundred feet, then broke,
Yet, through it all, the water pumps pumped on.
Alas, the bit had stuck inside the hole,
And hours passed by with drilling at a halt;
Another drill began another hole;
Then number one continued its assault.
The men had heard the drilling sounds above
And dared to think salvation near at hand;
But, when the distant rumble fell away,
They feared that they had made their final stand.
They huddled close together for their heat,
Encouraging, in turn, the faint of heart;
On scraps, they penned brief notes to leave behind,
Their feelings for their loved ones to impart.
On Saturday, the drill bored ever down,
And pumping made the water level fall;
A microphone sent down the hole, when done
Picked up the words, “We're OK, one and all!”
So resurrections followed Sunday morn,
As, one-by-one, the men were raised above,
Released from three-days’ prison’s bonds of gloom
And saved by acts of sacrifice and love