48 years later, mine disaster still stings

48 years later, mine disaster still stings

Icy roads and a few cases of the flu prevented some scheduled speakers from attending the 48th anniversary of the Knox Mine Disaster, but the audience heard their words regardless.

On Jan. 22, 1959, the Susquehanna River burst through the River Slope mine of the Knox Coal Co. in Port Griffith, killing 12 miners.

Survivors and family members of the deceased provided oral histories that appear in “Voices of the Knox Mine Disaster†by Robert P. Wolensky, Kenneth C. Wolensky and Nicole Wolensky.

Audience members gathered in the Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum in McDade Park on Saturday to hear recitations of those accounts.

Ruth Cummings, museum educator, recruited substitutes to read the histories of the absent speakers.

“The parts are still the truth. They are the words of people who said them and meant them,†she said.

One speaker who was present was Audrey Baloga Calvey, of Port Griffith, who approached the podium to speak about losing her father, John Baloga, in the disaster.

“When the water broke into the mines, I was just a young girl,†she said, remembering how she and her mother discovered a list of the missing miners and saw her father’s name was the second one down.

“My heart was broken because I was very close to my dad,†she said.

Ms. Calvey would greet her father with a bottle of beer and help remove his boots and jacket after a day in the mines.

“Things were never the same,†she said, recounting how her mother would sit by the window that overlooked the river for days.

With no grave to visit, Ms. Calvey lights a candle for her father and the other lost miners.

“In my heart, I say, it’s not the 12 men. It’s another 12 apostles,†she said.

In addition to the book excerpts, Kenneth C. Wolensky read a history of the disaster and Tim McGurl sang and played guitar.

“The events of that day had an incalculable effect on this region,†Ms. Cummings said.

The theme of next year’s program is “Preserving the Memory and Sites of the Knox Mine Disaster.â€

“That’s what we’re all about here, is memory,†Ms. Cummings said.

Contact the writer: mreiter@timesshamrock.com

©The Times-Tribune 2007 www.thetimes-tribune.com

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