When Bill and Lori
Arnold noticed two men with flashlights moving suspiciously around
their dairy pasture just before midnight on July 24, 2002, Bill
ventured out to confront the intruders.
As he approached the shadowed figures, a familiar voice broke
through the darkness. "Is that you Bill?" came the voice
of Sean Isgan, an engineer and long-time acquaintance. "There's
been an accident in the Quecreek Mine. Nine men are missing. We
haven't got much time." Bill's reply came immediately, "How
can we help?"
Little did Bill Arnold realize as he entered
the darkness that evening that the next five days of his life
would center on helping save the lives of nine others. By daybreak,
the 212 year old Dormel Farms would be transformed into the site
of the largest rescue effort in Pennsylvania in nearly three decades.
The land, buildings, home and equipment of the Arnolds' farm all
offered support in the rescue effort. In fact, Bill Arnold himself
turned the first soil in the rescue with his farm's old backhoe,
to ensure that the first drill rig wouldn't rupture a dangerously
close gas line.
The ensuing five-day rescue effort and miraculous
rescue of all nine miners is the stuff of dreams and legend. Few
events since the safe landing of the Apollo 13 have caught the
world's attention and emotion and ended with such a positive uplifting
But what has come
to pass in the months since the rescue has surprised the Arnold
family nearly as much as the event itself. Tens of thousands of people from all over the world have come to see the site where their prayers were
answered, and they continue to come. Since the rescue,
Bill and Lori, Bill's parents Dorcas & Melvin Arnold and family members of the rescued miners
have greeted visitors to the farm, telling all who come of how
God performed a miracle in Somerset, Pennsylvania.
This tremendous show of public interest
and support prompted the Arnold family to pursue the vision of
developing the site into a - Monument for Life - a permanent
monument to rescue workers, so often the unsung heroes behind
the headlines. To help facilitate this process, the Arnold family
has created the Quecreek Mine Rescue Foundation, a 501(c)(3)
organization with a mission to "preserve the site & celebrate the inspirational story of the Quecreek mine rescue."
"The Quecreek Mine Rescue Memorial - Monument
for Life - will honor and portray the team of rescue workers
who saved the nine trapped coal miners from certain death. In
a larger sense, the memorial site will honor the tireless heroism
of rescue workers everywhere, as well as serve as a lasting tribute
to the coal miners of Southwestern Pennsylvania and across the
nation. In addition, the site will provide a variety of educational
experiences for visitors.
The plans and design for the Monument
for Life are spirited and ambitious, much like the rescue
itself. It is believed that when completed, the 5-acre site will
be the largest tribute to America's rescue workers in the country.
As you enter the monument park, you are
greeted by a 7-foot cast bronze coal miner, as an honor to
coal miners everywhere.The paved walkway leads you toward the center
of the Monument for Life - an arbor garden tribute to all
eighteen Quecreek miners that were in the mine that day. Here
nine evergreens encircle a majestic Red Oak tree. To symbolize
the undying determination of the nine miners, the evergreens will
be bound together with a cable as the miners bound themselves
together in the mine. The red oak symbolizes the faith and strength
everyone showed in bringing "the nine" to safety. In
addition to the trees, nine black granite monuments encircle
another side of the Red Oak, to honor the first nine miners who
narrowly escaped the mine flood, soon to become rescuers themselves.
The rest of the site will largely remain
pasture, as it was when the rescue took place. Benches, paths,
picnic areas and complimentary plantings and landscaping will
highlight the grounds.
Site development began in March, 2003
and is ongoing. A public celebration was held at the site
Saturday, July 28, 2007, the five-year anniversary of the rescue effort, and included former Governor Mark Schweiker as featured speaker.
This improvement and preservation of this site, as well as construction of a building to properly display the artifacts and educate people about this rescue, will be supported largely through
charitable contributions. Anyone interested in paying tribute
to America's rescue workers or honoring America's coal miners
can support the project by sending a contribution to the Quecreek
Mine Rescue Foundation, 151 Haupt road, Somerset, PA 15501 or
calling 814-445-4876. You can found out more about contributing to the memorial building fund on our donations page.