"Language, as well as the faculty of speech, was the immediate gift of God." ~ Noah Webster

Saturday, May 3, 2014

I See A Light

Yesterday was the 42nd Anniversary of the “Sunshine Mine Disaster”. I have written about it before, so I didn’t really intend to write about it again. 

Actually, “Holocaust Remembrance Day” has also been on my heart and mind for the last few days, and I had been thinking I wanted to write down my thoughts regarding that. The 70th anniversary of that dreadful time was commemorated earlier this week, and with so much going on in the world I have been meaning to write about the increasing numbers and news stories we hear in regard to Holocaust Deniers – those that say the holocaust never took place. That was what I planned to write about after returning home from the Sunshine Memorial.

But after attending the service yesterday at Big Creek, I couldn’t help but see an important lesson that is invaluable to both memorials. It is the call of the Jew, “Never again!” The message at Sunshine, was the same; we must never let this happen again.

I could not have been more moved by the ceremony as we sat in the warm sun listening to the heart-felt message. I was so thankful to be among those gathered to honor the 91 that died that horrible spring day, 42 years ago.

I was captivated immediately by the speaker this year. He was probably not the most eloquent speaker I have ever heard; but I don’t think I have ever heard a more sincere and beautiful message than what we heard yesterday. His tone, and passion and easy way of speaking pulled me in instantly.

He was just 22 years old at the time, he told us - Just an inexperienced kid, with no thoughts about much of anything, especially life and all that it might bring. I listened intently, but getting the facts correct now, as the hours have passed, seems difficult. I don’t want to give incorrect information, but I will try to present the general idea of what he told us as accurately as I can.

Due to his chosen profession, someone had asked him to make an educational video about mining. Wanting to be as accurate as possible, in order to make this video, he decided he needed to take some mining classes to better inform himself of procedures and other particulars of mining.

Having finished the classes on mining, at some point, he was in a meeting with someone who held a very high position in the mining industry. He informed us that at 22 years of age, he never thought for a moment that he would meet someone of such importance and success. As it turned out, this was at the same time the Sunshine Mine disaster took place, making national news. The call had gone out across the United States mining industry for help. The important executive asked all those present at this meeting if there were any there who had taken the mining classes. They needed people with some knowledge of the ins and outs of mining. He wanted to know how many would be willing to go to Idaho to help with the disaster. The young 22 year old knew immediately what he would do.  He calmly, but emotionally asked us, “How could I say no?” There were about 20 of them from the meeting who had taken the classes and were willing to go to do whatever they could in search of lost miners.

This man, now 64 years old, is Mark Savit, and he is known for the incredible photos that were taken there at the mine during that search.

He went on to tell us, that when he arrived at the mine, someone had asked him if he could wire a phone that could be sent down the shaft to allow for communication.

“Keep in mind this was 1972”, he reminded us, “and technology was very limited by today’s standards.” They were successful in the wire, however, and that phone connection was a very important part of the search.

He told us how, days later, from his position at the top of the bore hole, he finally heard the words that they had all been longing to hear, over the wire he had created.

“I see a light!” the voice exclaimed over the phone, and Mark’s voice broke with emotion even 42 years later as he repeated those significant words.

That was all it took to cause the tears welling in my eyes to fall. Who would think that 42 years later there could still be such raw emotion? Who would believe, that the heart could still break out of sharing and reliving those moments of so long ago. Clearly, this man held something deep. He had no relative, friend or loved one there; he had no local connection. But he holds something within himself still to this day as deep and dark as that old silver mine was when she took the lives of 91 men that tragic day. He understood the loss of life. He lived through the sadness of those who were connected. He felt the intensity of their pain. And then suddenly, and randomly that vicious old mine, graciously spit out two.

“I see a light!” It was the words they were longing to hear. It meant life. Mark was there the day the two surviving minors Tom Wilkerson and Ron Flory were pulled to safety. Mark is the one that took the well-known photo that spread from newspaper to newspaper of the only two men who came out alive after seven long days.

Mark Sevit was not from our area. He came only to help, because one simply shouldn’t say no to a request like that. He said he was never sorry. It made him who he was, he passionately told us. And that fact could not be more apparent. I believe it is the same connection that those who serve together in war, experience. It is the same link that never, ever leaves them, no matter how many years have passed. It is, I believe, because it has become a part of them…and not only a part, but a completion of who they have become. It is them. They experienced something that changed them; something that formed them into just exactly who they are. I can’t explain it well, but I could see it; and I could feel it in Mark Savit. And for some reason, I know it is true and somehow I understand it.

I don’t believe I have ever been more impacted by any speech, anywhere as I was this one. As I said, it wasn’t eloquent; it wasn’t of some superior intelligence; or even the most articulate speech I have ever heard. It was simply heartfelt, passionate and true. I think I was so impacted by this man’s words because I believe so strongly in what he was trying to tell us. I believe the message he gave us is imperative to know in any difficult situation one might confront. His belief has long been my belief. The simple truth he presented to us was: “If we don’t remember this tragedy, these lives, we risk the chance of it happening again. If we don’t commemorate this day, we risk loosing the message.” If we don’t honor life, we diminish life.

He shared with us what he does personally to assure he never forgets the lesson of Sunshine. “Leave a light on”, he said. Always leave a light on for your loved ones, so when they come home there will always be light. That was especially meaningful for me to hear, as those were the same words my grandma told me many, many years ago. Light says "welcome home, I’m glad you are here". Light reveals life.

He encouraged us to use one of the mining lights mining families might still have around. He suggested we all get a minor’s safety light and turn it on in remembrance of those lost, on days like Christmas, or birthdays and anniversaries – and especially on this anniversary. “Remembering” enables us to keep our faith; remembering preserves our love; remembering will cause us to want to be sure not one will ever be lost like that again.

He is right you know. It is why the Jew says “Never again!” It’s why they hold onto their “Holocaust Remembrance Day”. It is why they are so offended when one tries to deny what took place ever took place, and why it can never be allowed to be forgotten. We must hold onto history, we must never forget what the world would have us forget.

And so it turned out, today, that what I had been holding in my heart the past several days in regard to one of the worst tragedies in world history – the holocaust – and being discouraged by such carelessness from the world of that nation’s protection was confirmed as an important concern. All that I was feeling was revealed and realized in our own local tragedy, by a man that was forever changed by four words. With death all around, he heard, “I see a light.”

I don’t mean to detract from our own local tragedy, by bringing up the holocaust. I don’t mean to compare the two in any way at all. Other than the fact, that we must never ever, let the hardness of the world remove the facts of what actually took place in any situation. Our history is imperative to keep accurate and alive. Honoring those lost isn’t “wallowing in death”. It is the celebration of life.

We must shine our lights. With light, darkness dies. In light, there is hope. In light, there is life. May we always be able to say, “I see a light!” It is also why we must be keepers of the light. It simply ensures “Never again.”

That’s what I learned at the Sunshine, today. And I couldn’t have been more moved by that message - the message of one man who really shouldn't have been connected to this area at all - but was somehow grafted in to families, locale, and community who reallly, realllly needed him then, but also appreciated his powerful message, 42 years later.

1 comment:

  1. "Honoring those lost isn’t 'wallowing in death'. It is the celebration of life." <<<--- Yes!
    It was a nice ceremony