Pennsylvania miners rescued 20 years ago come together to find each other – The Morning Call
JENNERSTOWN, Pa. — Six of nine men trapped in a flooded mine in southwestern Pennsylvania two decades ago gathered at a running track this weekend to kick off 20th anniversary celebrations of the dramatic rescue that put an end to their ordeal of 77 hours.
The six competed in the races on Saturday at Jennerstown Speedway in Somerset County, just miles from the Quecreek mine, sitting with former Pennsylvania Governor Mark Schweiker, media reported. Blaine Mayhugh, John Phillippi, John Unger, Robert Pugh, Ronald Hileman and Thomas “Tucker” Foy took to the floor at intermission to the cheers of the crowd.
Miners drilled through stone in the unexplored mine shaft on the night of July 24, 2002, releasing millions of gallons of water and trapping it more than 200 feet below the surface. Crews drilled a small shaft and lowered a small metal capsule, raising them one by one until the last was brought to safety in the early morning of July 28.
“I can’t believe it’s been that long,” Hileman said. “Lots of memories still there.”
Schweiker, the former lieutenant governor who was elevated nine months earlier after Gov. Tom Ridge was chosen to lead the new US Department of Homeland Security, said Saturday’s meeting felt like a family reunion.
“This weekend is all about reflection and giving gratitude to the dedicated first responders,” Schweiker said, referring to the team that came together to save the miners. One of the other rescued miners, Dennis Hall, 68, died on May 13 and was also honored on Saturday.
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Kelsey Mayhugh was only 7 years old when she and her mother learned that her father, the youngest of the miners, was trapped.
“I was very scared. And all I wondered was when my dad would come home,” she said. “He really didn’t talk about it too much for the next 10 years. .”
Mayhugh said living through Quecreek gave him a different outlook on life.
“I believed in religion more after the incident and enjoyed life a lot, definitely a lot more,” he said. “You think nothing will ever happen to you, at the age of your guys, and then something like that puts into perspective that it could happen anytime to anyone.”
“It’s really nice to see these guys back,” Foy said. “We only see these guys once a year.”
Phillippi, who was attending his first meeting in several years, also said, “I miss this band.”
“It seems like a long time ago – and sometimes not long enough,” he said.