Beckley, WV – (WWNR) – On the 13th anniversary of the explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County, relatives of the victims joined city and county officials and first responders at the Miners Memorial Garden next to the Raleigh County Courthouse in Beckley. As in years past, a bell was rung after the names of each of the 29 victims of the UBB disaster were read out.
Among those attending Wednesday’s ceremony were Bobby and Jeanie Sanger, who were there to mourn Jeanie’s brother, Benny Willingham.
“First of all (I’m) sad, of course,” said Jeanie Sanger. “But I’m also rejoicing because he’s in heaven, and I know that.”
“The community and the family doesn’t forget,” said Bobby Sanger. “We’re still memorializing them and honoring them. Some people don’t think coal is still a vital part of our nation, our region, our county, our city. Coal drives a lot. And these guys that were mining that, and unfortunately, passed away and we’re here to honor them. And we’ll be able to honor more of them when we get the new memorial at New River Park.”
After the ceremony, former state lawmaker Mick Bates announced that funding had been secured for a Miners Memorial Wall that will honor not only the families of the Upper Big Branch victims, but the more than 2,000 miners who have died in Raleigh County.
“It’ll actually be located at the exit portal of the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine,” said Bates. “Thousands of people visit that attraction every year, from all over the county, the state, the country, the world. And they’ll have an opportunity when they come out of that mine to look at a wall that shows the names of all those that perished in Raleigh County doing what they would never do.”
Bates says there’s no timetable for site development or construction of the Miner’s Memorial Wall, but he hopes to have something physical to show people by next year’s anniversary.