Today marks the anniversary of the Quecreek Mine rescue, in which then governor Mark Schweiker stood before reporters in Somerset, Pennsylvania and announced, “Nine for nine” to cheers and tears of joy.
Last month, my husband and I visited the farm where the Quecreek Mine miracle happened. Bill Arnold, the owner of Dormel Farms, narrated the play-by-play of how the miners got trapped and the events of the ensuing days.
On July 24, 2002, miners had reported to the job site for a typical day’s work, digging for coal to be used in electric-generating power plants. Six hours into their shift, they inadvertently cut into an abandoned mine, thereby releasing millions of gallons of water into the Quecreek Mine.
The devastating mistake was due to outdated maps they’d been given. As the mine flooded, the men scrambled to find exits. Realizing they were trapped, they inched to the highest possible point they could reach. Over the next eight hours, oxygen dwindled, causing them to vomit and to gasp for breath.
Meanwhile, on the surface, a band of engineers, Navy SEALS, officials, and prayer groups converged.
A small, tight-knit community, neighbors knew one another and have so for most of their lives. (My father’s side of the family is from Somerset and we visited with them before going to the mine).
“Nobody slept that night,” my cousin recalled. She named several of the miners, telling how they knew each other or where they lived in relation to her farm.
The men were 245 feet under the ground, in bone-chilling temperatures and rising water. Drilling stopped when the first drill rig broke. Lifesavers and one man’s leftover soda were the only rations.
Four days after being underground, a slim yellow capsule drew up the men, one by one. As the last man appeared, a chorus of cheers resounded. The prayers of many, many people had been wondrously answered.
As Arnold relayed the final events of the nine miners being brought to the surface, he told of Mark “Mo” Popernack, who insisted on being the last. According to Arnold, Popernack later said that if he had not been trapped in the mine he would not have given his life to Christ – and that would have been a greater peril.
Our host concluded his talk by imploring everyone listening to turn their eyes upon the tenth man who’d been in the mine that day, in the words of some of the miners. That in this Man is light and life.
Afterward, my husband and I had a chance to chat with Bill Arnold. We thanked him for his bold witness and clear gospel invitation. He told us that he gives the same messages to private groups and public schools alike. “A few years ago,” Arnold told us ” The Lord laid it on my heart very strongly that I needed to be much bolder in sharing the truth. That people need to hear because the end is very near.”
I can’t help but wonder how I’d live my life if I’d gone through such an experience and been given a second chance. Would the wonder fade as the years went by? That the Lord would quicken us to realize the dreadfulness of the domain of darkness He rescued us from, and that we’d burn with zeal to see others rescued from it through our intercession and courage to tell them how very real it is.