Today (Nov. 17), I had the privilege to attend the memorial service for the 78 coal miners who died in the Farmington Mine Disaster 45 years ago this week.

Three sisters from my church sat on the front row just under the large tent at the side of the memorial. Their father was one of the victims of that disaster.

In 1907, the worst mining disaster in U.S. history occurred in our county. About 400 men and their sons died that dreadful day, in Monongah, W.Va. Though the Farmington mine explosion of 1968 did not cause the greatest number of casualties, it did lead to new government regulation of the mines when a law was passed in December 1969.

Today, in the rain, the International President of the United Mine Workers explained how greatly U.S. mining deaths have decreased as a result of the Farmington Mine Disaster, the loss of the lives of 78 brave men, and that new federal legislation. Those men did not die in vain.

One quote that rang out among the 200 mourners, who were assembled in Llewellyn Hollow, was, "The dead cannot cry out for justice. It is the living that must do that!" There were two survivors of that explosion who laid a wreath at the monument. Both of them were on oxygen and probably suffered from black lung.

When they called the roll of the 78 miners who died, one survivor in a wheelchair said, "Those are all our good buddies." How sad for these two gentlemen to have lost 78 friends in one moment.

Dan Manka

Fairmont, W.Va.

Nov. 17