- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 20, 2003

SOMERSET, Pa. (AP) — Eight of the nine men trapped in a flooded mine for 77 frantic hours returned for a prayer service yesterday, yards away from where they emerged from the earth to a national audience nearly a year ago.

The men and their rescuers attended the service to mark the approaching anniversary of their three-day ordeal, which ended when each miner was raised hundreds of feet to the surface in a yellow mine rescue capsule.

One of the miners, Blaine Mayhugh, 32, climbed back inside the capsule, which had been brought to the service.

“My heart is actually fluttering,” he said, cramped in the capsule. “It seems a lot harder to get in this now than it did then. It’s still very tough for me.”

Mr. Mayhugh shook hands with some of the roughly 150 people at the service and signed autographs with fellow miners Ronald Hileman, Dennis Hall, Tom Foy, Randy Fogle, Mark Popernack, John Phillippi and John Unger.

One miner, Robert Pugh, was out of town, they said.

All the men said that not a day goes by that they do not thank their rescuers or God that they are alive. But they also say they suffer from nightmares and other ill effects from the flood at the Quecreek Mine.

“I go to see a doctor every week and I’ve got to take medication for anxiety,” Mr. Foy said. “There’s that time every night around 3:30 that I wake up thinking about it. I think it’ll go away, but I’ll never forget it.”

The men became trapped July 24 when a coal extraction machine ripped into the adjacent Saxman Mine, which was filled with an estimated 50 million gallons of water.

A preliminary report suggested that faulty maps led the men to believe they were still 300 feet away from the Saxman, but a final report has not been made public.

The nine miners were forced to retreat to higher ground deep inside the mine as rising water cut them off from an exit. The men were rescued early July 28, after more than three days of drilling, when the rescue capsule reached them through a narrow shaft.

Even as the men wrestle with the memories of tying themselves together in the mine so that no one would have to search for their bodies, there remains the question of what to do now. The men received $150,000 each for the movie rights to their story, but say they know the money will not last.

Most of the nine men say they’ll never work in the mines again. Mr. Fogle is the only one who has returned into the mines, although Mr. Popernack has an aboveground mining job

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