Brookwood miners remembered at memorial service Thursday
By WVUA 23 News Reporter Karris Harmon
On Sept. 23, 2001, Jim Walters No. 5 mine was the site of several explosions resulting in the deaths of 13 miners.
Community members gathered at the Miners’ Memorial Monument in Brookwood to honor the legacy of those 13 miners.
International Vice President for United Mine Workers of America District 20 Larry Spencer said remembering what happened is just as important as mourning those that lost their lives on that day.
“If you ever forget what happened then it could happen again and we definitely don’t ever want to see people killed in a coal mine, not even one, much less having an explosion that killed 13 people,” said Spencer.
The memorial service began with a prayer, followed by musical performances, a candle lighting ceremony, an inspirational message, and it ended with the laying of evergreen leaves on Miners’ Memorial Monument.
Every year money is raised to put on a memorial service. Spencer said after the explosion, he made the families that lost a loved one a promise that they would never forget those that died.
“I just want the family to know we will never forget. UMWA will always be there for the family. We will always put this ceremony on in some manner but we’re always gonna honor these people in some way,” said Spencer.
Spencer was working in the No. 7 Mine when the No. 5 Mine had its first explosion. The miners have a special brotherhood and when one of their brothers is hurting, they are all hurting. Spencer said it never gets easier.
“Talking about it today has brought back memories that has brought me to tears,” said Spencer. “You can hear it in my voice right now. Yeah… Feel it every day.”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, last year’s ceremony was much smaller, but the memorial service was actually the first time that all members of the community were able to come out, fellowship and remember the lives that were lost 20 years ago.