- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

BROOKWOOD, Ala. (AP) - The names of 13 miners who lost their lives in a mine explosion 13 years ago are engraved in a slab of stone as black as the mounds of coal of Mine No. 5 just yards away.

Junior Adams died in the explosion at the age of 56. His daughter, Rhonda Adams, said her father called her every day before going into the mines. She got another call that night around 8 informing her of the explosion. She said she knew her father was dead.

“Looking back over there at the mines, it’s kind of a peaceful feeling, but it still hurts,” Adams said.

Hundreds gathered Tuesday at the 13th annual Miners’ Memorial Service at West Brookwood Church to light candles and lay evergreen leaves at the base of the Miners’ Memorial Monument in honor of the 13 loved ones who died after two explosions at the Jim Walter Resources Blue Creek Mine No. 5 on Sept. 23, 2001.

Gary Holley, a retired mine worker of mine No. 4, which was connected to No. 5 underground, was off work that day. He said he got a call that evening to bring the emergency hoist truck in to get the miners out, but it proved impossible for rescue workers to safely recover the miners.

Adams said she remembers the families meeting at the union hall every day for two months to be updated about the condition of their fathers, sons, husbands and brothers.

“When the rescuers finally got to their bodies two months later, it was like going through (mourning) all over again,” she said.

Although she still feels the pain of her father’s death, she said gathering with family members of the other miners at the memorial service helps ease that pain.

The service not only honors the memories of the miners who died that day, but honors fallen miners across the nation. Although safety conditions in mines have improved in the years since the explosion of Mine No. 5, a total of 38 deaths have occurred in Alabama mines since Sept. 23, 2001, according to the United Mine Workers of America.

“We pause every Sept. 23 to remember their lives,” said Thomas Wilson, international representative of UMWA. “If you don’t remember the things of the past, it is bound to be repeated.”

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Information from: The Tuscaloosa News, https://www.tuscaloosanews.com

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